I called and spoke with Rod Helder today. I have written up the conversation, and it follows.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Phone meeting between Teri Kuiper and Rod Helder, retired
Mr. Helder graciously agreed to speak with me from his home. He is incredibly knowledgeable and spoke at length about the history of homeschooling with regard to its legalization. I was not able to keep up with him as I wrote. Therefore, I have used quotation marks only on direct quotations or portions of quotations, which I was able to write down quickly enough. Anything not in quotations is my wording, from my notes, trying to convey as accurately as possible, our conversation today.
Early on, the law was interpreted more conservatively by the DNPE. Mr. Helder said that due to tremendous input from homeschoolers, about five years ago he went to the Attorney General and asked if NC statute wording allowed wiggle room to have a way to be interpreted more loosely. The Attorney General agreed, and strongly advised liberal use of the word “supplemental” in the guidelines that were written as a result.
Those words can be found on the DNPE website.
The original wording of the homeschool statute included this wording, written by Mr. Helder: “…from and under the direct supervision of the parent…” in regard to directing the education of the students. NCHE fought the wording, and changed it to what it is now: “Home school means a nonpublic school in which one or more children of not more than two families or households receive academic instruction from parents or legal guardians, or a member of either household.” Mr. Helder told me that he was in attendance when NCHE fought to change the wording. He said later in the conversation that Mr. Mason argued against the inclusion of the word “from,” and that now he is surprised that Mr. Mason is still using that word. Mr. Helder also said he is surprised that NCHE is tampering with this, as “nothing is perfect, but we have a pretty good law.” Mr. Helder “doesn’t think this is a wise move”… and it would be…”intentionally risking throwing away what we already have.”
I read Spencer Mason’s public assertion to Mr. Helder, copied here from the NCHE Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/nche1984/posts/10151409011756609)
“A mom was talking with Rod Helder, DNPE director, a few years ago, and she told him that her son was in a dual enrollment calculus class at NC State. Rod told her to close her school because she was not in compliance with the law. With a homeschool closed a student could not get a diploma that DNPE will recognize.”
Mr. Helder stated clearly and for the record that DNPE has NEVER closed a homeschool. Mr. Helder refuted this, easily. The DNPE does not have the authority to close ANY homeschool, and has never closed a homeschool. Furthermore, the DNPE has no control over diplomas. Furthermore, diplomas are not required anywhere. It is the transcript that is the legal document. The DNPE is only a monitor, and it does not have the ability or the authority to enforce the law. Law enforcement falls to the public school superintendents, who CAN prosecute a homeschool that is operating outside of the statutes. It is up to the homeschool administrator to close the homeschool when they are not in compliance with the statutes.
Mr. Helder went on to say, in regard to the calculus student, that it was indeed possible that he may have suggested that the homeschool be closed for the specific reasons that compulsory education in North Carolina ends at age 16, and the age requirement for dual enrollment was 16. Again, neither Mr. Helder nor the DNPE has authority to close a homeschool.
Regarding the statement over on the NCHE Facebook page by a member who claims personal knowledge of a homeschool co-op being closed down for offering Spanish, the same response applies.
Mr. Helder stated for the record that the DNPE has NEVER closed down a homeschool, never closed down a co-op, and never closed down a 4-H group. They all fall under the term “supplemental” which is clearly stated as being acceptable on the DNPE website.
Regarding tutors being legal: As long as tutors are “tutoring” (rather than replacing, is what he meant), the Attorney General agreed to broaden the definition to allow parents to teach up to a certain point, such as calculus, and then a tutor can be employed for supplemental teaching. The word supplemental was highlighted by the Attorney General.