A family in Charlotte County, Florida, were told by officials they could have their homeschool program terminated unless they handed in certain documents—which the family had already submitted.

The county home education office sent two letters to the family, claiming that annual evaluations for both of their homeschooled students were missing. Knowing that the evaluations had been submitted months ago, the family asked HSLDA to reach out to the school district.

This was definitely the right thing to do. Whenever a school official states that “your child will be terminated from the Home Education Program” because of missing paperwork, it needs to be addressed right away. Chances are that the error lies with school officials, who need to correct their processing of incoming letters or emails.

Sure enough, the family sent us a copy of an email from their evaluator that had been sent to Charlotte County back in May with the evaluations for their two children. While these evaluations were not technically due until August, the family had submitted the student portfolio review early as a precaution.

Following the Law

Under Florida law, a parent operating a home education program must provide an annual evaluation that documents their student’s “educational progress at a level commensurate with her or his ability.” Traditionally, the evaluation is submitted on or before the anniversary date of when you established your home education program.

After reviewing the family’s records, it quickly became apparent that Charlotte County must have simply lost or overlooked the family’s emailed evaluations.

Unfortunately, we see several situations like this every year, where school officials have misplaced or lost paperwork that a homeschool parent is legally required to submit. Inevitably, these officials blame their poor record keeping on the homeschool family.

Just last week, a homeschool mom in Alachua County received a call from the local home education office, stating that they could not locate her son’s homeschool file.

She had recently submitted her annual evaluation for the 2020–21 school year. After receiving her evaluation, the school official stated that they wanted her to re-submit her notice of intent so “they could start a new file” for her son.

This parent has been homeschooling since 2017 and had faithfully been submitting her son’s evaluations each year. Apparently, Alachua County has lost three years of her evaluations. Thankfully, this mother had kept copies of all of these evaluations, so her son was not in a position where the district’s actions would harm him.

Improvements Needed

In each of these situations, we have encouraged local school officials to address the deficiencies in their record keeping. Homeschool parents in Florida are required to submit their evaluations and maintain their portfolios for at least the last two years.

Public school officials are also required to maintain student records. While state law is not explicit on how long they must maintain these records, the Florida Department of State has published guidance that a district must retain homeschool records,  including the annual education evaluation required by state law, at least “four anniversary years after completion or termination of program.”

While no homeschool family should have their home education program jeopardized by the incompetence of their local school officials, maintaining your student’s records can prevent the district from blaming you when they lose your records.

In addition, under Florida Statutes 1002.22(2)(c), “students and their parents have the right to challenge the content of education records in order to ensure the records are not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise a violation of privacy or other rights.” Failure to comply with this provision of state law could entitle a parent or student to an injunction and attorney fees and court costs.

We are working with Florida Parent Home Educators to make sure local school districts properly maintain homeschool records.