In late June, N.J. Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet upheld a district’s enforcement of its homework policy and its practice of assigning and grading homework over the summer months.

In L.M. v. Allamuchy Board of Education, a parent challenged a board’s practice of assigning summer homework that would be due in September at the start of the next school year.

Prior to the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the parent notified the school via email that her children would not be participating in the summer homework program.  Consequently, one of her children received a zero for the assignments that were not completed, with those grades being incorporated into the student’s first marking period grade average.

The parent appealed to the board, seeking to have those zeros removed from her child’s average, asserting that the board does not have a written policy addressing summer homework and that the board lacks authority to require students to complete any assignments outside of the 180-day school year.

The board issued a written response to the parents, saying summer homework was a benefit to student learning which was within the authority of the board.

The parent then appealed to Repollet, who sent the case to an administrative law judge for initial findings and determinations. While the board’s homework policy did not specifically mention summer assignments, the judge noted that it did not specifically exclude summer work. Further, the board maintained a long-standing practice of supporting the assignment of summer homework.

By keeping students academically engaged over the summer, the board said it wanted to reinforce the learning experienced at the school and help students prepare for the upcoming school year. There was clearly a nexus between the assigning of grade-appropriate summer homework and the board’s stated purpose for assigning this work.

The administrative law judge said the management prerogative of boards of education cannot be usurped or assumed by the commissioner of education absent a definitive showing of bad faith or arbitrary actions taken in bad faith.

The judge concluded that the board acted within its legal authority when it adopted its policy of supporting the assigning and grading of summer homework, which was based upon legitimate and reasonable educational-policy rationales. Additionally, the judge noted that there was no law that prohibits a district from assigning summer homework.

Repollet agreed with the findings and conclusions of the judge, saying that the “board’s practice of assigning summer homework is not arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, or contrary to law (and) … the board did not act in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner by implementing grading consequences for the failure to complete summer homework assignments.”

Boards may wish to review their homework policies and practices with their board attorneys. For further information about this decision, please contact the NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department at 609-278-5254 or your board attorney.

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