At Home School Legal Defense Association, we answer thousands of questions from Ohio families every year and help resolve hundreds of disputes between homeschooling parents and the more than 600 school districts in the state.
One question that often pops up is who should receive a family’s notice of intent (NOI) to homeschool. The regulation seems quite clear on this, but like any “clear” rule in our modern society, there is sometimes the need for interpretations.
Section 3 of the regulation governs notification. The section states that a parent “who elects to provide home education shall supply the following information to the superintendent no later than the start of the public school building the child would attend in the school district of residence or within one week of the date on which the child begins to reside in the district or within one week of the child’s withdrawal from school.”
For greater clarity, the regulation even defines superintendent as “the superintendent of the city, local, or exempted village school district in which the parent resides.”
All About ESCs
So far so good. How, then, do parents get confused by ESCs—and what do ESCs have to do with homeschooling?
An ESC is an “Educational Services Center.” These provide support services for the school districts in their area.
Once upon a time, ESC superintendents had the authority to issue valid letters of excuse for homeschooling. The legislature removed this authority within the last few years. It isn’t clear exactly why, but they did. Which means that ESC superintendents no longer have authority to issue a valid letter of excuse to a homeschooling parent.
However, local superintendents continue to rely on ESCs for support, including the processing and recordkeeping that goes along with homeschool notifications. This agreement between local schools and the ESCs is a lawful arrangement.
For homeschoolers, the complication comes in when a superintendent tells a family to “send the notification to the ESC.”
What To Do
My advice to homeschool families on this question is that it is always right to follow the regulation. At the same time, it is not a violation of the regulation to send an NOI to the ESC as a matter of administrative convenience. The important point is that the local superintendent understands his obligation to sign your excuse letter. This is especially true for returning homeschoolers, who may know that the ESC and the local superintendent have an agreement for the processing homeschooling NOIs.
Although it sometimes happens, it is always wrong for a school district to return an NOI and tell a homeschooling parent that they must send them to the ESC. If a superintendent has an agreement with an ESC, the regulations is clear that because they are responsible for issuing the letter of excuse it is therefore also their responsibility to forward an NOI to the ESC. Still, if a homeschool parent chooses to accede to the superintendent’s request, it is not a violation of the regulation.
HSLDA will always help homeschoolers who have issues relating to their notification, whether it involves who gets the notice or requests by officials for additional information—or something else.
HSLDA includes a notice of intent form in our resources for members at hslda.org/ohio. We encourage our members to use our branded HSLDA form so that school districts know that you are homeschooling with the support of HSLDA and that if they cause any unnecessary problems, you have legal back-up.
Families new to homeschooling should be advised that, in addition to the annual notice, Ohio has a fair number of other hoops to jump through. Some of these include hours of instruction, submitting a curriculum description and lists of textbooks, as well as annual student assessments.
(Just remember that this year the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 164, waiving the requirement for all homeschool families to submit an assessment.)
Ohio homeschooling parents have become accustomed to these requirements since the regulation permitting home education as a legitimate excuse to compulsory school attendance was approved in 1989. The regulation has mostly withstood the test of time, with only modest changes over the years.
The most recent five-year review, required by Ohio law and conducted by the Ohio Department of Education, resulted in the most significant change ever. This imposed a deadline for submitting the form—the end of the first week of school in your district—along with a transfer procedure for parents who move within Ohio during the school year.
One thing you can be sure won’t change is HSLDA’s commitment to homeschool freedom—whether advocating for individual families or protecting the movement as a whole.