Dear CPS: Compulsory Attendance Starts at 7. This Child is 6.
by Dave Dentel • May 9, 2018
When a homeschooling family who had done nothing wrong found themselves in family court, Home School Legal Defense Association stepped in to help resolve the situation—and educate a few officials along the way.
The legal crisis arose after parents in Minnesota removed their 6-year-old from public school kindergarten because of the negative influences they saw in the school. The parents informally told officials that they intended to teach their child at home, which was appropriate because state law does not require a formal notice of homeschooling until after a child turns 7.
The family was subsequently visited at home by a CPS investigator. This led to the parents having to appear before a judge, facing charges of failing to comply with the state’s compulsory school attendance laws.
The CPS investigator mistakenly insisted that the parents needed to put their child back in school or file a homeschooling notice.
“She was the only one who took that position,” said HSLDA Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole, who assisted local counsel with the case. “We don’t know why, other than that she misread the statute.”
Though the parents did not face any criminal penalties, the judge could have ordered any number of typical remedies, such as obtaining services, additional court appearances, or follow-up visits by CPS investigators.
HSLDA’s litigation team helped the family obtain a local attorney, and helped prepare a legal memo explaining Minnesota’s homeschool law, which local counsel presented to the judge and prosecutor.
Our memo pointed out that state law does not require parents to file a homeschooling notice until the October after a child turns 7, and also that Minnesota’s statute is so specific, especially when compared to the law in some states, that there should be no question of its intent.
The case against the family was dismissed.
“This was primarily an issue of educating folks,” Kamakawiwoole said, “and fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. It highlights the fact that even though homeschooling is growing, there are still people who don’t understand how it works or understand their state law.”
He added that HSLDA’s knowledge and experience in similar cases make a big difference in convincing officials that we know what we’re talking about when it comes to homeschool law.
It also helps when families take their responsibilities seriously.
“The family in this case really made it easy for us by doing everything they were supposed to do,” Kamakawiwoole said. “They withdrew their child because they thought they could do a better job educating him, and were clearly communicating [with officials].”
“In a time when people want to highlight negative situations,” he added, “the best things parents can do is to follow the law, teach their kids, and love their kids. And these parents did that.”