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November 10, 2006

Family Threatened with Truancy Charges

At the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, Home School Legal Defense Association assisted a member family in Shelby County threatened with truancy charges. On September 20, 2006, the attendance supervisor at Shelby County Schools sent a notice to the family that truancy charges would be brought against the parents unless their two children were immediately enrolled in public school.

Both children were in compliance with Alabama’s compulsory attendance law because of their enrollment in a church school, Shades Mountain Independent Church Academy. The parents had filed the required church school enrollment form with the local public school superintendent when the children were first enrolled in the church school at the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year. The enrollment form had not been filed for the 2006-2007 school year because state law does not require the filing every year.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the attendance supervisor at Shelby County Schools, informing him that the children in question were enrolled in a church school and that Alabama law does not require that a church school enrollment form be filed every year. After receiving this information, the public school made no further threats to prosecute the family.

HSLDA is aware that some families in Alabama file the church school enrollment form on an annual basis, even though state law does not specify that they do so. Annual filing of the form may help families avoid threats of prosecution in some cases, but clearly a school district has no legal basis to commence legal action against a family electing to file the form only at the time of initial enrollment. According to 16-28-7 of the Alabama Code, the church school must notify the local public school superintendent when a child is no longer in attendance at the church school. Unless the church school has notified the public school superintendent that the child no longer attends the church school, there is a presumption that the child continues in attendance.