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March 29, 2006
School District Oversteps Authority

In mid-March, Houston County Schools sent a memorandum to all church school administrators in the county requesting that they begin to send enrollment and attendance information each month to the local school district. According to the memorandum, the basis for this request was for the school district to be in compliance with monitoring procedures established by the Alabama Department of Education.

In Alabama, the vast majority of home instruction takes place through enrollment in church schools which operate as a ministry of local churches. All church schools are required to comply with the enrollment and reporting procedure set forth in Section 16-28-7 of the Alabama Code.

This statutory provision requires that the enrollment and attendance of a child in a church school be filed with the local public school superintendent by the parent, guardian, or other person in charge or control of the child on a form provided by the superintendent or his agent. This form must be countersigned by the administrator of the church school and returned to the public school superintendent by the parent.

The form for each child enrolled in the church schools in Houston County had already been filed with the local public school superintendent. There is no requirement that this form be filed at any time other than initial enrollment of the child in the church school.

Section 16-28-8 of the Code also requires church schools to keep an attendance register showing the enrollment of the school and every absence of each enrolled child from school for a half day or more during each school day of the year. However, there is no requirement that this enrollment and attendance information be reported to public school officials.

When contacted by the church school administrators receiving this request from Houston County Schools, Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the public school explaining that state law did not require church schools to report the requested information. To date, the public school officials have made no further requests for the monthly enrollment and attendance information.