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July 17, 2015

LEA Declares Homeschool “Inactive”

Dee Black Senior Counsel Dee Black answers questions and assists members with legal issues in Tennessee. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

After a Home School Legal Defense Association member in Memphis filed her notice of intent to conduct a homeschool for the 2015–2016 school year, she was surprised to later find out that the homeschool was considered “inactive” by Shelby County Schools, the local education agency (LEA). Our member would not have discovered this but for her contacting the LEA to ask for a letter acknowledging her daughter’s enrollment in a homeschool. The public school official responded that the homeschool was classified as inactive because of the parent’s failure to include a copy of her high school diploma with the notice of intent. That’s when she contacted HSLDA for assistance.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the official and informed her that the parent was in full compliance with the law by providing all of the information required for a notice of intent. He pointed out that the applicable Tennessee statute requires that the notice of intent include the following information: “the names, number, ages and grade levels of children to be home schooled, the location of the school, the proposed curriculum to be offered, the proposed hours of instruction, and the qualifications of the parent-teacher.”

A Matter of Law

Black went on to say that while state law requires that a parent conducting a homeschool through the LEA possess a high school diploma or GED, there is no requirement that the parent include a copy of the diploma or GED with the notice of intent. This may be contrasted with other provisions of the law for this homeschool option requiring that attendance records, proof of vaccination and other health services, and standardized test results be submitted to public school officials. Based on the fact that the statutory language expressly requires the submission of some documentation but contains no such provision for documentation relating to educational background, Black asserted that it is clear that state law does not require a copy of the high school diploma or GED to be submitted to public school officials. HSLDA’s position is that had the Tennessee General Assembly intended to require submission of the diploma with the notice of intent, it would have included it in the law.

Unfortunately, the notice of intent form developed by the Tennessee Department of Education seeks a copy of the parent’s high school diploma or GED. But there is no legal basis for this request by the department. The department has no authority to legislate or create law. Its responsibility is to implement and adhere to the law enacted by the legislature, the same as an LEA.

Other HSLDA member families encountering this or similar administrative difficulties should contact us for assistance.

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