June 28, 2002

Release of Information: A New Concern

In the last year, home school families in several states have run into problems with their local school district releasing information about their home school programs without their permission. While school districts have not broken the law in most cases, the practice has given rise to some concerns.

In the early years of the modern home schooling movement, the major fight was to ensure that home schooling was recognized as legal. While legal challenges still pop up frequently, the struggle has moved on to other areas as well, and one of the newest frontiers is the privacy of home school information.

Many states require families to submit a notice of intent to the local school district. Often these notices contain information about children in the family. Information like this is very valuable to many people, including retailers, researchers, and investigators. Yet giving out such information about families can be dangerous to their well-being. Because of this risk, families should have a right to decide whom their personal information is given to.

One such district that disregarded family's privacy was Baltimore, Maryland. After several letters, Home School Legal Defense Association successfully convinced Baltimore not to distribute information regarding home school families.

In Washington, home school families received a letter from a teacher completing his master's degree, asking them to participate in a survey relating to his thesis. The school district had given the teacher the names and addresses of home schoolers in the area without even notifying the families that they would be doing so.

An Ohio school district sent out a notice to families informing them that unless they objected in writing, information such as students' and parents' names, addresses, telephone numbers, ages, and grade levels would be given out as "directory information." HSLDA wrote a letter on behalf of several member families in the district, explaining that home schoolers have valid concerns about such information being released, since it is basically a directory of moms and kids at home alone during the daytime.

Home schooled students in Minnesota were surprised to receive a survey from the local high school statistics class, asking such questions as "Do you ever wish you could attend public school?" The school district had released the home schoolers' names and addresses to the class, but when home schoolers asked for the names and addresses of the students in the statistics class, they were told that the information was "confidential." HSLDA referred the matter to the Minnesota Non-Public Education Council, who were shocked to hear that such information had been given out.

Many schools have policies governing what information, if any, is made available. We recommend to our members that you consider indicating on any documents submitted to the school district that this information is not to be released to anyone else without your permission. If your district releases information without your authorization, please contact us for assistance.