Missouri School Districts are guilty of overstepping their bounds and encroaching on the personal liberty of Missouri families and students as they seek out legal alternatives for their children’s education.
Under MOCAP, students looking for flexibility can enroll in Virtual Learning Academies that allow them the freedom to work, study at home, and progress at a pace that suits their needs. However, their school district must approve their transfer and many schools are abusing the approval process to maintain power and control over students in their community.
Districts are repeatedly failing to conduct a fair process, denying parents their rights, and withholding access to virtual courses and programs. State Senator Ed Emery has introduced SB 929 which should clarify the enrollment process for virtual academies. I believe every education advocate, parent, and student in this state should support this bill.
Parents are being driven to expensive, legal action in order to help give their kids the educational opportunities they need. In the Winfield School District, a student enrolled in a full-time virtual program, but the school denied the request as the student was performing well in the traditional, brick-and-mortar setting. The family retained legal counsel and argued that achievement and performance in the physical school were not grounds for denying their child a choice in how they learned. They were successful in their case and now the child is on track to graduate through the Missouri Virtual Academy.
However, as schools continue to put undue pressure on families who ask for options, the disparity between those who can afford a costly legal battle and those who can’t are starting to rupture. Families without the resources to hire a lawyer to deal with their school district will be vulnerable to the bullying of district administrators and unable to change their circumstances.
Parents shouldn’t have to invoke legal counsel to educate their children in the way they see fit. We should all be outraged that this opportunity, and the law, is being so manipulated to hurt families and encroach on their personal freedoms. As a parent myself, I am outraged that schools can maintain their death grip on students just because of a technicality in the law.
Our legislators who want to see our students succeed should support SB 929.
Colleen Cook is the president of the National Coalition for Public School Options.