WAYS DISTRICTS WILL TRY TO BLOCK YOUR ENROLLMENT IN VIRTUAL EDUCATION (AND HOW TO WORK AROUND THEM)
Unfortunately, many districts throughout Missouri have tried to block parents and students from enrolling in virtual education programs. Thankfully, many of these attempts are blatantly against the law and easily avoided. We go through some of the most common ways districts try to stop students from accessing virtual education and provide some key ways to avoid these roadblocks.
Before you contact your district to enroll your child in virtual education keep these key tips in mind in case they try to block your child's lawful right to these programs:
Educate yourself on the MOCAP law and your rights.
Keep a log and document all your interactions with your school districts. Try to have all your communications with your district through email so you have a dated “paper trail.”
In Missouri, you have the right to record your conversations without informing the other party.
Often the virtual vendors are able to communicate with the district to sort out any issues you may be having.
For questions or assistance, or if you need help communicating with your school district, contact Cici Tompkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314-561-8646
SIX INCORRECT THINGS YOUR DISTRICT TELL YOU TO BLOCK YOUR CHILD'S ENROLLMENT IN VIRTUAL EDUCATION:
1. THAT YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING FOR FOR THE VIRTUAL COURSES
This is not true
According to state law, the district or LEA your child attends is responsible for paying for virtual education courses or programs that have been approved by MOCAP. The law requires this for both individual courses and full-time programs, but does not require the district or LEA to pay for courses that would be considered more than a full course load (i.e. if your child would normally take 6 classes a day then the district is NOT required to a pay for a seventh class that would be taken virtually)
2. THAT YOU CAN ONLY ENROLL PART-TIME
This is not true
Under the MOCAP law, students can enroll in either individual virtual education courses or a full-time virtual education program. The choice is entirely up to the student and their family and should be based on the student's individual needs and goals. If a student enrolls in more than two virtual courses, the district is required to make an Individualized Learning Plan for the student to ensure they are getting all of the courses they need to graduate or advance to the next grade.
3. THAT THE DISTRICT HAS A PREFERRED VIRTUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM AND THAT THAT IS THE PROGRAM YOUR CHILD MUST USE
This is not true
By law, the student and their family are the ones who have the right to choose the best provider for their needs. While the district may have an existing contract with another provider, you have the right to choose any of the 10 MOCAP approved providers for your child based on which one will work best for your child's education.
4. THAT YOU MUST SHOW A NEED TO ENROLL IN VIRTUAL EDUCATION
This is not true
Enrolling in a single virtual education course or a full-time virtual education program is your child's right under Missouri law. You do not need to have any special needs to qualify for the MOCAP program. Your district can refuse to approve your decision to enroll in virtual education, but only if they can prove that it is not in your child's best educational interests. The burden of proof falls on the district not the student or their family.
5. THAT YOU NEED TO UNENROLL FROM THE DISTRICT BEFORE YOU CAN ENROLL IN A VIRTUAL EDUCATION PROGRAM
This is not true
This probably the most nefarious way a district may try to avoid paying for your child to access virtual education. Under Missouri law, in order to require the district to pay the tuition for virtual education programs under MOCAP, your child MUST be a student in the district and have been enrolled in a Missouri public school for at least a semester prior to enrolling in a MOCAP program. If your district convinces you to unenroll your child from the district, then they are no longer responsible for paying for access to a virtual education program.
6. THEY MAY SIMPLY IGNORE YOUR REQUEST
A new rule being considered by the Missouri Board of Education would require districts to make an enrollment decision within 30 days
Several districts have attempted to block students from enrolling in virtual education in Missouri by simply delaying any district decision on the initial request from the family. State law lays out a clear process for families to appeal district denials for virtual education enrollment requests, but none of that can start until the district has officially denied the request. By delaying the initial decision on the request districts can prevent families from engaging in their legal rights to contest the decision until it is too late in the school year for their children to benefit from accessing a virtual education program.
Districts across Missouri have already tried to use these tactics to block enrollments in virtual education programs
The following information from the National Coalition for Public School Options details how families across the state have had to fight for their rights in the past year.
Fulton Public Schools (FPS): Working directly with the Department on Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), FPS refused to recognize a full-time course MOCAP-compliant program and denied three siblings access to the program. After the family filed legal action against the district for the right to enroll, a Cole County judge ordered DESE to recognize the parent’s preferred online program on its list of MOCAP-approved providers and thereby allow the process of enrollment to restart with FPS. Warsaw School District: A child with medical complexities was initially approved by her District for MOCAP program enrollment, and then the district attempted to rescind approval. The family retained a lawyer to help secure their daughter’s rights. Despite harassing truancy calls to the family, the parents gathered medical opinions of multiple physicians about the student to support their “best interest” decision. When the district recognized they were on the verge of legal costs to fight the family in court, the school relented, and approval for enrollment was confirmed.
Independence School District (ISD): Nearly a dozen families seeking enrollment in MOCAP programs have been denied access by ISD under especially egregious circumstances throughout the 2019-2020 school year, including:
Signed forms approving MOCAP enrollment later invalidated because of “clerical error” or the forms not signed by school personnel with any authority, as claimed by district senior officials. Parents told that if student did not return to brick and mortar the district would “see them in court”
Harassment of parents with “truancy calls” after providing signed MOCAP enrollment forms.
Due process denial of parents the right to have counsel present at an enrollment hearing before the school board - by deeming the hearing “closed” and forcing the attorney (present to represent the family at the hearing) to remain on a different floor of the building than the parents during the actual hearing.
Presenting 100 pages of new documentation to parents in justification of the enrollment denial during school board hearings – a violation of the law which states documentation must be provided at the time of denial – thus giving parents no opportunity to review or prepare for new evidence and arguments in the moment.