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April 11, 2017

School Officials Repeatedly Harass Homeschooling Family

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Tj Schmidt TJ SCHMIDT Contact attorney for New York

After moving into the Williamsville Central School District in the middle of the school year, a member family submitted their notice of intent to homeschool their children, as New York law requires.

District officials immediately demanded information not required by law. They told the family that they had to register their children within the school district before being permitted to homeschool. A few months later, they requested additional information with the intent of entering the children into a central identification system.

We wrote a letter to Williamsville pointing out that homeschool children—especially those who do not intend to be enrolled as students in the public school district—are not required to be registered there.

Then, nearly two months later, the family received a second letter stating that the district needed proof of residency and each child’s date of birth “in order to enter them into our student system.” In the letter, Williamsville officials went on to say that the birthdates were required “to enter your students in the New York State Repository as students in our district receiving instruction through home schooling.”

The letter ended by warning that if this information was not provided within 10 days, the Coordinator for Student Services would be forced to conduct a home visit.

Hearing from Their Lawyer

After we sent a second letter to Williamsville informing them that the New York State Student Identification System is for public school students and not homeschool students, the district’s attorney decided to give us a call.

Instead of phoning our offices in Virginia, however, he called one of our local associated attorneys in New York. In this phone call the district’s attorney requested that the member family provide proof of residency and proof of age to “ensure that the children had age appropriate curriculum” in their homeschool program.

Upon hearing this, I immediately returned the call.

During our phone conversation I informed the district’s attorney that parents, not public school officials, control their children’s education program when teaching them at home. I pointed out that under New York law the parent determines the child’s grade level and is only required to inform the school district of the syllabi, curriculum materials, textbooks, or plan of instruction in the required subject.

I also informed the attorney that the New York State Education Department had made it clear that the review of the materials that the parent submits in the individualized home instruction plan (IHIP) is only to verify that the required subjects are being taught. School officials do not have any authority over the curriculum materials that will be used or grade level that will be taught.

The family decided to show proof of residency as a sign of good faith, even though they had received each of the district’s letters sent to their home. We anticipate this will resolve the issue and the district will accept all of the required documents the family must submit.