Families Flummoxed by Non-Census Nonsense
by Mike Donnelly • January 23, 2019
When Bill Heur, director of Massachusetts Home Learning Association, asked why homeschool families in Oxford had received questionnaires in the town’s census mailing, the town clerk replied with a rhetorical shrug.
“Don’t blame me—I’m just the clerk,” was her response.
While federal law requires that people who are queried by the U.S. Census respond with the requested information, there is no requirement that homeschool families provide information to local public school districts.
In this case, it isn’t clear why Oxford schools sent the questionnaire because homeschooling parents already are required to supply information to the district about children they are homeschooling. Yet the questionnaire requested that parents of all children not attending public schools fill out the form.
The form sought the birthdate and grade level for each student, something Massachusetts homeschool law does not specifically require. HSLDA often corresponds on behalf of families who wish to keep the birthdate of their child private. While providing a grade level or age is appropriate to establish a standard for required assessments, a birthdate is information that many people reasonably prefer to keep private.
It isn’t unusual for school districts to seek additional information about homeschooling families. However, when such information is not legally required it should be clearly indicated as optional. When accompanied by a census form from the town clerk, many families get the impression that they must fill out the form—but that is not the case. Although families may fill out the form if they wish, they are not required to.
Clearing up the Issue
HSLDA is always ready to defend our families when they encounter requests for information from public officials. No question is too big or too small when it comes to homeschooling—we’re here to serve you and boost your confidence.
We know that such apparent demands for personal and private information can be intimidating. We encourage our members to contact us early on when they have questions about requests from government officials, including such apparently mundane questions such as a non-census form. In other situations, such as contact from social services or truancy officers, getting in touch with an HSLDA attorney can make the difference in resolving a situation to best protect the integrity of your home and family.
If something seems like it’s nonsense—it just might be. So give us a call and let us help you make sense of it!