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The district lost this family's paperwork, then accused them of neglect.

Mom Keeps Better Records than District

by Tj Schmidt • January 15, 2019

Jeffrey and Jennifer Braun have been homeschooling for 12 years. They live in the state of New York, where filing the required homeschool paperwork is no small task.

Every year, homeschool families must submit a letter of intent, an individualized home instruction plan (IHIP), four quarterly reports, and an end-of-year assessment for each child.

Like thousands of dedicated homeschool parents, Jennifer has turned in every document on time. With six children, each of Jennifer’s document submissions can run a dozen or more pages. Her standard practice is to go down to the school district office to have them stamp the date on every page so she has a record of everything she submits.

Something’s Missing

After following their normal procedure in submitting their homeschool records for the 2018-2019 school year, the Brauns were surprised to get a letter from the Rome City School District.

The letter, dated December 11, 2018 from the Director of People Operations, stated that the district had not received any of the IHIPs for the Braun children. The district went on to say that if officials did not receive all of these documents within seven days, they would report the family to Child Protective Services for educational neglect.

Jennifer immediately called Home School Legal Defense Association. She quickly sent us the threatening letter and copies of all the IHIPs that she had submitted for her children. Every page was stamped by the district office as having been received on August 15, 2018.

I immediately called the office and asked to speak with the school official who had written the threatening letter. But the district denied receiving the IHIPs. They even searched their records, to no avail.

They had completely lost all the Braun’s homeschool paperwork for the 2018-2019 school year.

Taken to Task

I informed the school officials that we had reviewed all the Braun’s IHIPs and that they had been stamped by the district as having been received. With some righteous indignation, I chastised the district for threatening the family with educational neglect reports when the real problem was the district’s negligence.

We resubmitted the Braun’s paperwork and requested that the district verify in writing that everything was in compliance. I warned the district that making a false report to social services was a crime in New York. I also pointed out that even if parents had accidently forgotten to submit their paperwork, it could not be considered educational neglect.

According to New York Social Services Law § 371, educational neglect occurs when a child’s “physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of his parent or other person legally responsible for his care to exercise a minimum degree of care … in supplying the child with adequate … education … though financially able to do so.’

After receiving the documents from HSLDA, Rome City School District sent Mr. and Mrs. Braun a letter confirming the compliance of their paperwork.

Common Error

Sadly, this issue is something that HSLDA is encountering more and more. Some school districts regularly misplace paperwork and then claim that homeschool families are the ones at fault.

Homeschool parents who keep good records, like Jennifer Braun, provide HSLDA with the perfect model for defending homeschooling and putting the focus on the real issue: the failure of school districts to adequately keep legally mandated homeschool records.

We are pleased to report that this situation was resolved in just one day. However, we will continue to monitor the Rome City School District to ensure they don’t threaten other families because of their own mistakes.

Thomas J. (Tj) Schmidt

Staff Attorney

Tj is an attorney and homeschooling dad dedicated to defending the rights of homeschooling families across the country. Read more.

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