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August 22, 2017

District Gets Defensive About Extralegal Demands

Public school officials in central Pennsylvania threatened to report a new homeschooling family to child protective services if the parents refused to provide information not required by state law.

The Home School Legal Defense Association member family had recently withdrawn their daughter from a private school because they thought homeschooling would be a better fit for the upcoming school year. After filing the required homeschool affidavit, the school district responded with a list of demands, including grades and report cards from their daughter’s previous schools.

When the family inquired whether submitting this information was mandatory, the district threatened to contact child protective services if the district did not receive the requested information.

Child protection agencies serve an important role in safeguarding children. But threatening a report of abuse or neglect should not be used to coerce families into providing unnecessary information.

I contacted the school officials on the family’s behalf. I provided some basic information that was missing from the family’s initial affidavit, and clarified that the family was under no obligation to provide information beyond what the law requires, such as the student’s prior private school records.

I also pointed out that school districts are without authority to establish policies or procedures that add to or contradict state law. Provided that the family complies with the legal requirements for homeschooling, the decision to homeschool is not subject to the approval of school officials.

The school district did not respond to my letter, but dropped the request for additional information.