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November 16, 2006

Family Won’t be Bullied Again Into Filing Form

Within days of telling the local public school principal that she was going to homeschool her 12-year-old daughter, Kristen Barsé received a letter in which he threatened to turn her over to Child and Family Services for educational neglect—unless she filed a written declaration of enrollment. He gave her a six-day deadline.

While it is often the parents who bring up the idea of homeschooling, in the Barsés’ case, it was the daughter who had persistently asked her mom, Kristen, to homeschool her. School officials frequently had criticized the daughter for her illness-related absences. She was also convinced she would make better academic progress if she were taught at home.

Being homeschooled was a hope fulfilled for the daughter, so Kristen fervently wanted to avoid trouble. Kristen had doubts about whether state law required her to file the written declaration, but frightened and faced with the threat of possible legal action against her, she submitted to the principal's demand.

After this came to the attention of Home School Legal Defense Association attorney Scott Woodruff, he called Kristen in northeast Missouri and confirmed her hunch that state law did not require her to file the written declaration. He then called the principal and told him that his threat was unlawful since families are never required to file a written declaration of their intent to homeschool.

Woodruff also asked the principal to delete the following statement if he intended to send a similar letter to other families, since it is completely wrong: “...When a student is home schooled for a period of time their teacher will be required to provide documentation in reference to the curriculum used as well as grades earned for those courses.” There are no such requirements under state law.

The principal listened attentively and agreed to change the letter before using it again.