HSLDA to Official: It’s Not a Threat, It’s the Law
by Mike Donnelly • June 25, 2019
I didn’t mean to sound threatening.
I was doing something that unfortunately has become almost routine—defending homeschool parents who feel squeezed between the dubious demands of local bureaucrats and a desire to protect their children’s privacy.
It started when I heard from several constituents—including longtime homeschool mom Deborah Weinstein—who told me about a troubling letter from their school district in Milford, Ohio.
A Change for the Worse?
The family’s story was familiar.
Local officials said they were “implementing new procedures” required for “all” homeschool families.
From now on, officials insisted, families submitting annual notification of homeschooling to the local school district must use an online form, provide students’ birth certificates, plus proof of residency along with a DNA sample. (Just kidding about that last one.)
The problem is that none of these “new procedures” are included in the state’s homeschool statute, which I could cite in detail (complete with the long and arcane administrative code chapter reference).
You can imagine how that made Deborah feel.
“This letter makes it seem like we have to provide this information,” she told me. “They refer to the Ohio Code … and it was very confusing. There is already so much data collection going on that is unnecessary. I didn’t want to provide any information that wasn’t required.”
I fired off an email to the Milford school superintendent demanding that her staff “cease and desist from requesting unlawful information” of homeschool families and that they revise their procedures to accurately reflect Ohio law.
I knew it was important to be firm because homeschooling in Ohio is not subject to approval by public school superintendents. Families who comply with the homeschool statute and who file a notice of intent with the information the statute requires should receive an excuse letter.
(HSLDA recommends the use of our forms to ensure full compliance.)
A Reversal of Sorts
I received a prompt reply. “We will comply,” the superintendent assured me.
She explained that homeschool students who participate in public school extracurricular activities are required to provide the information requested in the district’s form letter, which is true.
Then she added something that surprised me. She complained that in quoting what the law actually says in order to defend our members, I used language that alarmed her.
“Your email did not have to have such a threatening tone,” the superintendent wrote. “The school district is not the enemy.”
She assured me that district officials “are happy to serve our homeschool families,” which I was pleased to hear—until I read how she described this purported service.
Part of the reason for the changes suggested in the letter, she wrote, was not so much to benefit homeschoolers but to help the district conserve resources.
She added: “We also want to make sure that we are referring to the court any truancy issues when children are not enrolled in school or have an approved annual homeschool approval.“
Courteous but Firm
What could I say?
It’s our practice at HSLDA to be polite and professional, but we will never back down from defending our members’ rights and holding a firm line against any and all encroachments on the law.
But with 600-plus school districts in Ohio, you can be sure that some official somewhere is taking the law into his own hands and causing problems for our members.
As long as this sort of harassment continues, we can’t afford to be timid in our defense of freedom.
And I know our response certainly made a difference to Deborah.
“HSLDA was quick and right on providing members and the school district with accurate information,” she said. “Being a member makes me confident and secure. Every homeschooler should support HSLDA by being a member.”
If that’s the sort of advocacy you want for your family, I urge to learn more about HSLDA and to consider becoming a member.