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January 11, 2007
Deadline Dilemma: Tennessee Superintendent Gets It Wrong

Moving to a new state can be a challenging experience, especially if you are met by a superintendent rejecting your notice of intent! After moving to Hamilton County in September, a Home School Legal Defense Association member who filed under Tennessee’s homeschool statute was told that her notice of intent was being rejected because she hadn’t filed it by August 1, 2006.

Tennessee law requires the notice of intent to homeschool to be filed by August 1 each year. A late fee of $20 per week will be assessed until a final, drop-dead deadline of September 1. The law then allows a superintendent to reject a notice of intent to homeschool not filed by September 1, including situations when the parents decide to withdraw their child from public school during the school year. (The deadline does not apply to parents beginning to homeschool by associating with a church-related school.) Numerous authorities hold that the deadline cannot be applied against families moving into Tennessee from another state during the school year and who thereafter wish to homeschool in Tennessee.

In a letter dated October 13, 1989, to legal counsel for the State Department of Education, Deputy Attorney General Michael W. Catalano made reference to the order issued by the court in the case of Mabley v. Smith, which held that the August 1 deadline set forth in Section 49-6-3050(b) of Tennessee Code Annotated “does not apply to parents teaching their children in a home school outside of the State of Tennessee who move into the State of Tennessee after August 1, 1989 and wish to teach their children home school in Tennessee.” Thereafter, in the case of Crites v. Smith, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee made reference to memoranda issued to all superintendents of education in Tennessee by the Commissioner of Education stating that: “The August 1 deadline will no longer apply to parents who were conducting home schools in another state and who move into Tennessee after August 1 in which to conduct a home school in Tennessee.” A department of education document created in June of 1996 also states that the August 1 and September 1 deadlines do not apply to homeschooling families who move into the state during the school year.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Hamilton County Schools referencing these authorities and explaining how they established the family's legal right to homeschool in Tennessee. He advised the superintendent that our member family was entitled to continue homeschooling by the method they had originally planned by submitting a notice of intent to the public school district.

Any member family encountering difficulty with their local school district regarding filing deadlines should contact us for assistance.