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Decision: No laptops, but home-schooled students entitled to e-books

South County
Megan Warner

Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Education says home schooled students are entitled to loaned e-books, following an appeal by a Chariho father.

As Call 12 for Action first reported in September, Megan Warner was starting her junior year of high school as a home-schooled student.

Warner lives in the Chariho Regional School District and went to the region’s high school for her freshman and sophomore years.

Like all students in the district, she was assigned a laptop for her schoolwork.

“That was her textbook,” Warner’s father Mike said in September. “Everything is on there.”

State law requires school districts to provide textbooks for home instruction, so Warner’s father, Mike expected the district to provide a laptop for his daughter.

Instead, she received a stack of years-old paper textbooks.

At the time, Assistant Superintendent Jane Daly said “Chariho Regional School District does not provide home schooled students a 1:1 device, as they are not working towards a Chariho Regional High School Diploma.”

Warner filed an appeal, but the school committee ruled against him. He then filed an appeal with the R.I. Department of Education.

According to a decision issued Monday by Commissioner Ken Wagner, Warner’s daughter is not entitled to a laptop computer under the textbook loan program, but is entitled to e-books.

“Because e-books are excluded from the textbook loan list at the direction of the Department of Education, the Department shall remedy this particular matter by procuring the loan of e-books for which Appellant’s daughter qualifies,” the decision said. “The Department also shall revise the definition of “textbooks” in its textbook loan program policy in accordance with this decision and for future instances, beginning with the 2018-19 school year.”

In an email to Call 12 for Action, Warner called the decision “a nice win for the students.”

Daly released a statement to Eyewitness News following the decision Monday:

The Commissioner’s decision makes sense on a number of levels.  When a parent or guardian decides to provide home instruction, they are taking full responsibility for the education for their child.  While we try to be supportive of those who take on this significant responsibility, there are some limitations, including providing a personal computing device.  As e-books replace traditional textbooks in our classrooms, it only makes sense that they be made available to students participating in approved home instruction programs.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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