Re: DSM: Maneuvering around state regulations (long)


Kathleen Stilwell (kastilwell@yahoo.com)
Thu, 4 May 2000 12:04:07 -0700 (PDT)


Hi Joe,
This is Kathy Stilwell from Nevada responding to your
information on the creation of Fairhaven School.

Thank you for sharing in such detail.
In Nevada, all private and parochial schools must
follow the same guidelines as public schools.
The exemption is for nonprofit, tax-exempt fraternal
or benevolent organizations (this would include
churches, I presume) and the school must be available
only to members of that organization and their
immediate families.
However, I've been warned by a man who started a
religious (small Jewish sect) exempt school that
authorities will tolerate non-certified teachers but
will require testing and mandatory classes even though
the law itself doesn't require these things.
I've been trying to find out for myself from the
office that overseas exempt schools. Apparently only
one woman can answer my questions and she hasn't
returned my calls. I'll send out a certified letter
soon if I don't get a response.
Perhaps a religious organization would provide an
additional protection that a fraternal organization
would not. We'll see.
My beliefs concerning freedom in education are deeply
tied with my spiritual views, so I can easily see the
validity of using a religious community as a shield to
protect a school that would otherwise be open to
attack.
Thanks again for your feedback. I'll let you know how
things turn out.
Wishing you continued success,
Kathy
___________________________________________

--- Joe Jackson <shoeless@erols.com> wrote:
>
> > I'd appreciate knowing about any other state
> > regulations or about ways in which others are
> > successfully maneuvering around their state
> > regulations.
> > Kathy
>
> Hello, Kathy, this is Joe from Fairhaven School in
> Maryland.
>
> Under Maryland state regulations, a private school
> must do certain things
> that would not, to put it bluntly, be things a
> Sudbury model school could
> do. The solution we finally came up with after
> several years of planning
> was to form a church and have the school operate
> within the church. The
> school would then be classified as a "church-exempt
> school", and being
> classified as such has put us in a file at the
> Maryland Department of
> Education that apparently never gets opened - we
> have never heard from
> anyone since we opened, and there have even
> allegedly been folks that have
> called the MDE to complain that we are not a
> legitimate school, and
> apparently they absolutely refuse to exercise any
> regulation over us
> whatsoever.
>
> Obviously the first thing that concerned many
> founders about the church idea
> is the possibility that the church would develop a
> direction that would
> interfere with the ability of the school to operate
> in the standard
> "Sudbury" manner.
>
> Our vision was that the church would be a
> fellowship, and maintain a
> schedule of activities and study groups that would
> be free to explore and
> "worship" in any manner they chose (much as students
> are free to explore in
> a Sudbury model school), but that the church itself
> would be
> nondenominational in the purest sense of the word,
> and no specific worship
> or study practices would be institutionalized within
> the fellowship itself.
>
> Nevertheless, we did our best to build in some
> safeguards to help ensure
> that the church, called Fairhaven Fellowship, would
> not, to put it bluntly,
> "develop a mind of its own".
>
> While the school operates legally within the entity
> called Fairhaven
> Fellowship (FF), the property (land and buildings)
> belong to a separate
> 501(c)3 corp. called Fairhaven School Inc. (FSI).
> FSI makes payments on
> debt, and undertakes property acquisition, property
> development,
> fundraising, PR services and outreach, maintains the
> Tuition Assistance
> account, and provides the processes involved with
> Tuition Assistance. FSI
> receives monthly payments of approximately $4000
> from FF. The reason for
> this is that we decided in a fit of Machiavellian
> paranoia that the open
> democratic structure of FF could conceivably allow a
> group to take control
> of the Fellowship, which in turn could possibly
> interfere with the operation
> of the school. Having the assets belong to FSI
> makes FF a less attractive
> "target" in that sense. Also, if something happened
> to FF, FSI could
> conceivably "kick out" FF, and we would start
> another church and reopen the
> school in the same location. The main membership of
> FSI is, surprise! - the
> Fairhaven School Assembly.
>
> While membership in FF must be open to the public,
> the vast majority of the
> FF membership also consists of the Fairhaven School
> Assembly, as Assembly
> members are automatically FF members.
>
> While the law states that FF must directly operate
> the school, it does so
> via the Governing Procedures of Fairhaven School,
> which, if you squint, look
> a damn lot like the bylaws of a typical Sudbury
> model school.
>
> The church concept still gives some folks within the
> school community the
> willies, and I have also seen/heard people (on the
> outside) getting really
> *angry* about how we set up a "fake" church and
> subsequently attacking the
> idea on an ethical basis. This being said, the
> extent to and manner in
> which I and others believe in this way of educating
> our children (and
> subsequently building our families and communities)
> amounts to a prima facie
> religion, and I certainly do not share the ethical
> concerns that have been
> expressed by others.
>
> As far as whether this idea could work in Nevada or
> any other state, I do
> not know, but my gut feeling is that the reason the
> state government is so
> out of our lives is that they know a First Amendment
> freedom of religion
> issue when they see it, and while they (as a whole,
> not each person
> individually) are stupid, they aren't crazy. (This
> actually segues into
> another topic, which is whether a community starting
> and running a school
> like Sudbury is a First Amendment freedom of
> *speech* issue. It is my
> understanding that the Tutorial School in New Mexico
> recently won a State
> Supreme Court decision on that basis - can anyone
> pipe in regarding that and
> refresh my memory?)
>
> The thing to do if you want to try this approach is
> find out how to start an
> independent church in your state, and call you Dept
> of Ed and find out what
> a church has to do to start a school. Good luck.
>
> -Joe Jackson
>
>
>

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