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April 2020 Sosebee, et al. v. Franklin County School Board

Oral Arguments of the Supreme Court of Virginia

Release Date: 05/06/2020

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Granted Appeal Summary


Case

KIRK SOSEBEE, ET AL. v. FRANKLIN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD (Record Number 190620)


From

The Circuit Court of Franklin County; C. Perdue, Judge.


Counsel

Peter K. Kamakawiwoole, Jr. (Home School Legal Defense Association) and Melvin E. Williams (Mel Williams PLC) for appellants.

Stephen M. Maddy (Maddy & Nester, PLLC) for appellee.

Assignments of Error


1. The Circuit Court misconstrued clear statutory language in holding that the School Board’s local policy was consistent with Code § 22.1-254.1. Virginia law states that parents may homeschool when they submit a written notice containing certain statutorily-required information to their local public school Superintendent. The Sosebees gave their Superintendent a written notice with this information, and also included their child’s name, age, and home address. The School Board adopted a policy which amends the state’s homeschool statute to also require a birth certificate and proof of residency. The power to amend statutes is the power to make law; that power rests squarely and solely with the General Assembly, not school boards.

2. The Circuit Court misconstrued clear statutory language in holding that the School Board’s policy was permitted by Code § 22.1-78. School boards may adopt regulations consistent with state statutes for their own government, the management of official business, and the supervision of schools. Code § 22.1-78. The Board’s policy rejects notices of intent that otherwise comply with the homeschool statute, but nothing in that statute grants school boards or officials any discretion over the content of homeschool notices.

3. The Circuit Court erred in holding that the Board’s local policy was not ultra vires and that it was permissible because it furthered public policy. School boards only possess powers granted by the General Assembly expressly or by necessary implication. A policy that goes beyond those powers, or criminalizes lawful conduct, is ultra vires. The Board’s policy threatens families who
submit all statutorily-required information with prosecution, unless they also submit a birth certificate and proof of residency.

http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/scv/appeals/190620.pdf