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February 19, 2013

Do Superintendents get Lonely?

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly protects homeschool freedom in Massachusetts. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

Do public school superintendents get lonely? Sometimes superintendents go to such lengths to “invite” homeschoolers into their office for unlawful meetings that there seems to be no other explanation.

It all began with an “ominous”-sounding letter to the N. family during the 2011-2012 school year:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. N,

It is my understanding that you are homeschooling your daughter. I would like to meet with you to review your home school plan and your monitoring procedure.

Your superintendent

Having homeschooled for nine years without any such incident previously, Mrs. N was surprised by this sudden demand. Massachusetts law does not require homeschoolers to attend meetings. After being reassured by HSLDA, Mrs. N simply chose not to respond to the letter. But the school did not forget. This school year Mrs. N did not receive her usual and somewhat perfunctory a letter of approval. Instead, she was again asked to attend a meeting. Wishing to avoid the arduous back-and-forth with the school district, Mrs. N contacted HSLDA for assistance.

What the Law Says

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts set forth the legal procedure for homeschool approval in the case Care and Protection of Charles, 399 Mass. 324, 504 N.E.2d 592 (1987). In Charles, the Court set forth guidelines for superintendents or school committees to approve home instruction plans and enumerated specific areas that the school district may consider. The Court did not, however, grant school districts the authority to require a meeting as a condition of approval and the Court’s ruling in Brunelle v. Lynne Public Schools, 702 N.E.2d 1182, 1186 (1998) prohibits the school district officials from visiting families.

HSLDA attorney for Massachusetts member affairs Michael Donnelly wrote to the superintendent explaining the law. He also asserted that he had reviewed the family’s homeschool plan to verify that it contained sufficient information for the superintendent to be able to approve the plan. Donnelly requested that the superintendent either approve the plan or submit any concerns or questions in writing. Mrs. N was grateful and happy to receive an approval letter without further incident.

“Thank you so very much for your assistance in this matter. I have been under a great deal of stress,” wrote Mrs. N. “I am sure my home school year will run a whole lot smoother and less stressful.”

HSLDA has decades of experience dealing with the over 300 public school districts in Massachusetts. In many cases written proposals and responses are sufficient. While there is nothing inherently wrong with parents and school committee representatives meeting to discuss home instruction, for many people this is simply not desirable. Even if it means a lonely superintendent.

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If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support for our work enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>