Unlike many other states, South Dakota permits homeschool students to enroll part-time in public school classes.
This access is based on the interpretation of a statute that was confirmed by an opinion of the state attorney general. South Dakota’s top legal official intervened in part because of a homeschool family I helped several years ago.
The parents called HSLDA after the local superintendent somewhat brusquely refused their request to allow their child to take a public school class.
I called the superintendent that same day saying that South Dakota statute 13-28-51 required him to allow the student to take the requested class. The superintendent said his attorney advised him that he had the right to refuse the student.
I followed up with the school board attorney. Since the statute clearly seemed to give homeschoolers the right to take public school classes, I asked him what legal authority he was relying on in giving the superintendent that advice. He explained that the Council of School Attorneys interprets the statute to give school districts the option of turning away a homeschool student.
I asked the school’s attorney to urge the school board to allow the student to be admitted, at least on a provisional basis, and that litigation on the family’s behalf might otherwise be necessary since school was about to start. I followed up with a letter the same day explaining in detail the family’s right to take the public school class.
After receiving my letter, the attorney advised the school board that they should provisionally accept the student and seek an attorney general opinion to bring closure to the issue. The board accepted this counsel and the student was provisionally admitted. This wise approach avoided a lawsuit, avoided causing hardship to the homeschool family, and promised a long-term solution.
A few months later, South Dakota Attorney General Marty J. Jackley issued a formal opinion confirming that school boards must allow homeschool students to take classes. Since the attorney general’s opinion was issued five years ago, it appears that no school system has refused to allow a homeschool student to sign up for a class.
Note: A version of this article was originally posted in 2015.