Her daughter was bullied, exposed to inappropriate sexual talk by other students, and mistreated in classes and on the bus. Bratcher said she raised these issues with her daughter’s school, but they were not addressed.
“All of these incidents show that Bridgeport doesn’t have the best interest of students at heart,” Bratcher told The Texan.
The parents made the decision to homeschool their sixth-grade daughter McKinley, and informed the school of the decision via email in late July. Bratcher said she received no reply.
Not long after, she received a phone call from the middle school informing her that registration was open. Bratcher told the school staff member that she wouldn’t be enrolling McKinley in BISD for the 2022-2023 school year but would instead be homeschooling her.
Bratcher says she received two more phone calls from BISD about McKinley not coming to school. Again she informed them of the family’s decision to homeschool.
During the third phone call, Bratcher was told she needed to fill out forms expressing her intent to withdraw and was asked specifics about what program she would be using and when she would be starting.
At this point, Bratcher said she became very uncomfortable and asked the school to send her the forms via email.
The forms required her to acknowledge “dangers, concerns, and disadvantages” of homeschooling. One of the forms also said the district could investigate a family if it has “reasonable cause … to believe that the assurance” given that the child would pursue a bona fide program of homeschooling is not true.
Bratcher thinks the forms might be intimidating to some parents. “No one should feel bad about choosing to homeschool. It is not dangerous as they are making it out to be,” she said.
She contacted the assistant superintendent, P.J. Giamanco, and told him about the phone calls and forms. Bratcher said he seemed surprised and bothered by the forms.
“He was very nice and respectful. He assured me I wouldn’t have to fill out the forms and would receive no more harassing phone calls,” she said. Giamanco asked her to send him the original email with her intention to withdraw McKinley from BISD.
Bratcher also sent the forms to a friend who has been helping her with homeschooling and “it blew up from there.”
Monica Hamilton, who lives in the area, was homeschooled in the 1980s and homeschooled her own four children. She saw the forms via social media and went to see Giamanco as well.
Hamilton said he “had no interest in bothering homeschoolers” and prefers to receive a letter of withdrawal rather than using forms, further assuring her the staff would be informed about the forms and to no longer use them.
According to Giamanco, BISD is no longer using the forms and “have met with families who received these forms to apologize they were provided.” He said the new form has been in use since August 26. It no longer includes the language about homeschooling being dangerous nor about investigations, according to a copy sent to The Texan.
“The district is not required to answer questions,” according to Giamanco, and thus did not explain the changes in response to The Texan’s inquiry.
Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) President Tim Lambert told The Texan that forms that include what he called “efforts of intimidation” are pervasive around the state.
“The TEA requires simple written notification from parents when withdrawing their children from a public school to homeschool which includes the date homeschooling begins,” Lambert explained.
THSC’s website has an email that can be generated to send to school officials informing them of the parents’ intention to withdraw.
“We recommend this email process because often school officials try to intimidate parents by demanding things not required by law or TEA policy or in some cases simply denying withdrawal,” Lambert said.
“We moved to an email process some years ago when some schools began to refuse to sign for withdrawal letters sent via return receipt requested.”
McKinley loves homeschooling, her mom said. “She is eager to learn, is happy and comfortable, and thriving.”
Bratcher hopes that BISD fixes not just the forms, but some of the other concerns she has about the school because she recognizes that “not everyone can homeschool.”
“I want parents to understand that they need to stand up for their child. Don’t be afraid to make phone calls,” she added.
Copies of the old and new Bridgeport homeschool withdrawal forms can be found below.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.