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June 2, 2005

California school official claims right to approve private homeschools

In a May 27, 2005, letter to the editor, Gilroy Unified School District Attendance Officer Frank Valadez asserted that home educators operating under the private school exemption must seek approval from the district attendance officer before they can school their children at home.

Mr. Valadez stated that if the district attendance officer does not grant approval, the family will then be referred to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB), which will evaluate the child's education to determine if it is adequate. Mr. Valadez went on to say that if the SARB rules that the child's education is inadequate, the child will be considered truant and truancy procedures will be instituted, including a referral to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. Mr. Valadez went so far as to indicate that children who are currently being homeschooled, but have not received authorization from the school district, must contact the district attendance officer to receive approval to homeschool.

In a letter to the editor in the Gilroy Dispatch, Home School Legal Defense Association responded to these misrepresentations as they relate to the state law for home educators. Home education in California is not subject to approval or evaluation by the local school district. A small private school in the home is no different from a brick-and-mortar private school down the street. Just as no public school official would claim the authority to approve a student's right to attend that brick-and-mortar school, California law does not give public school officials the authority to approve a student's right to attend a small private school in the home.

The only authority public school officials have regarding students enrolled in private schools in their homes is to follow up on truancy allegations against them. A child is deemed to be exempt from public school attendance if he is enrolled in a private school that has filed its annual affidavit. There is no authority for public school officials to evaluate, approve, or verify that the private school is providing an adequate education to the children enrolled in it.

Remember, "homeschooling" and "home education" are not specifically mentioned in the California statutes. However, as in 11 other states, home educators in California operate as private schools. Whether a child is enrolled in a small private school established in the home, or a larger independent study program operated by a private school, once an affidavit has been filed with the Superintendent of Public Instruction under penalty of perjury, children enrolled in these schools are exempt from public school attendance.

This kind of misinformation is not new. However, Mr. Valadez's approach is different from that taken by former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Her position was that home education was illegal in California unless the instructor was a certified teacher providing three hours of instruction daily for 175 days in the subjects commonly taught in the public school. She failed to recognize the legality of home education via the private school exemption, even going so far as to request that the legislature pass homeschool legislation just prior to her departure.

Fortunately, the relationship between home educators and the Superintendent of Public Instruction has been much better since Delaine Eastin's departure. However, each school district is autonomous in its enforcement of truancy laws, and we can expect to see continued misapplication of these laws as they relate to home education in the future.

 Other Resources

Letter to the Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch by HSLDA President, Michael Smith