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November 16, 2015

School Drops Request for Homeschool Student Names

Scott Woodruff Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff helps members and advocates for homeschool freedom in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

Read these HSLDA articles about the Wisconsin school census.

September 30, 2013: “Waunakee School District Seeks Unauthorized Private Information”

June 23, 2011: “Census ‘Mysteries’ Explained”

December 19, 2015: “Wisconsin School Districts Seek Census Information”

March 14, 2002: “School Censuses Concern Home Educating Families”

A representative of an east-central Wisconsin school district sent a letter to an HSLDA member saying:

“In checking the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website … we noticed that … you have applied for homeschooling …. We do not have any information in our database on your children and would like to update our records. Please contact me as soon as possible so we can update our records.”

The family contacted HSLDA for help. Senior Counsel Scott A. Woodruff analyzed the letter and found several puzzles.

No Application Required

The first puzzle was: Why did the district think the family was “applying” for anything? Under Wisconsin law, homeschoolers are not required to “apply” to homeschool, or ask permission, or obtain approval, or register, or anything of the sort. The annual report of enrollment that families file with the DPI is a simple notice—not a request.

The second puzzle was: Why did the school district think it has a role to play at all? Homeschoolers are required to report only to the state the number of children in their homeschool. Wisconsin law gives school districts no role to play in this process.

The third puzzle was: Why does the public school keep records on homeschool families? What records do they keep, and why do they need to be updated? Wisconsin law gives local school systems no role to play with respect to submission of the annual report.

Taking Names

Woodruff wrote a letter to the school district asking simply: What information are you seeking and why are you seeking it? The representative courteously replied that they wanted the children’s names and had two rationales for seeking this information: “census purposes” and to make sure “all students in this district are receiving an education.” The representative concluded by saying the family had a right to ignore their request.

We appreciate the district’s acknowledgement that families can ignore the request. But their rationale for seeking the information in the first place cannot be taken seriously. Wisconsin Statute 120.18 does not authorize schools to conduct a census in this manner, and putting a child’s name on a list does not automatically mean he or she is getting an education.

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