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Warren County School Board passes modified regulation to excuse students
By M.K. Lutheremail@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County School Board on Thursday narrowly approved a modified regulation for religious exemption from mandatory school attendance.
The School Board voted 3-2 to approve an exemption regulation that does not require parents to submit a letter explaining religious beliefs.
Board chair Roy K. Boyles and Vice Chair Joanne Cherefko voted against approval.
"If a parent has strong enough religious belief to apply for a religous exemption, I don't see why they should have a problem putting it in writing," Boyles said, reading from a prepared statement prior to the vote.
Cherefko in July had asked for an amended policy requiring a letter of description of beliefs for parents to claim an exemption.
The requirement of a letter had drawn criticism from homeschooling families who said the provision was an infringement on religious freedoms.
Boyles also said schools Superintendent Pamela McInnis had originally asked the board to put the religious exemption policy in writing for clarification and consistency.
"There have been several challenges," Boyles said. "First, the legislation on this subject is vague. Second, the department of education has done nothing to help school boards clarify and determine its own regulation. I believe that is where the problem lies -- at the state level."
In October, McInnis asked the board to remove the requirement of the letter before moving forward with the regulation.
Several homeschooling advocates, Catholic and Protestant parents who already claim a religious exemption, spoke in favor of the amended regulation. Mary Kay Clark of Seton Home Study School, and Councilman Thomas H. Sayre, also asked the board to approve the regulation.
Bill Piercall and Connie Morrison-Henry, who have been campaigning for the board to approve an exemption regulation and policy that would call for more examination from the board, again spoke against the modification.
"As school board members, you are expected put education first and to do what is best for the children, and not just for a certain group of children in our community,"
Morrison-Henry said. "What is best for all children, not what is easiest for the parents and not what is best for your political agenda or what is best for local businesses in our area."
Sayre pointed to the success of his own homeschooled children and said that parents claiming a religious exemption should not be punished for the possible actions of a minority who could misuse the exemption.
"What it is, it is a small percentage, probably .001, that abuses the system," Sayre said. "And don't take that one rotten apple in the barrel and take the one rotten apple and say we are going to throw out the whole barrel."