When an Ohio mom decided to withdraw her son and start homeschooling before the end of the public school term, she enlisted the aid of others as she launched on a new education adventure.
It turned out she needed the extra help.
What should have been a straightforward process quickly became daunting when public school officials made demands not supported by state law.
The mom hand-delivered a notice of intent to homeschool to her local school district office in late April. Her neighbor, a seasoned homeschooler, helped her prepare the document.
School officials not only rebuffed the mom, but they also told her that she would be subject to truancy charges unless she first brought them the textbooks she intended to use and got “approval.”
Fellow members of the local homeschooling community encouraged the mom to contact Home School Legal Defense Association.
HSLDA Senior Counsel Darren Jones advised the mom to send the superintendent another notice of intent using our custom form. He also recommended that she attach their curriculum outline and materials list (as required by Ohio law) to her email, so that she would have proof that it was submitted. As a courtesy, she also emailed the principal of her child’s school, stating that she planned to begin homeschooling.
The next day, she received an ominous email from the school superintendent.
It read: “I am in receipt of your request to provide home education. … I will evaluate the information you submitted to determine if it is in compliance with all of the requirements of the law and related rules. In the meantime, your child is still required to attend school.”
A subsequent text message warned the mom that keeping her son at home would be considered an unexcused absence. It added: “If you give us the name of your attorney, we can have our attorney get in touch with yours.”
So, she asked Jones to intercede.
Looking to the Law
He wrote school officials, informing them that homeschooling is a right that parents may invoke without permission.
Jones added: “When a notice of intent is submitted, the person providing it has complied with the law as long as the notice meets the law’s specific requirements. Thus, the children who are the subject of the notification are exempt, as a matter of law, from the requirements of the compulsory attendance statute.”
As for whether her son’s absences from class were excused, Jones pointed out that state law declares that a homeschool notice must be filed “within one week from the child’s withdrawal from a school.” In other words, he clarified, “by sending it at the same time as her withdrawal, this mom actually filed it several days earlier than she really needed to.”
Jones also informed the superintendent that a notice of intent to homeschool is not a “request” and needs no “approval.” He wrote, “The term ‘request’ implies that the state has the prior right to determine whether a family can homeschool or not.” However, “the state does not have the right to approve a parent’s right to teach their child at home in Ohio.”
On the contrary, he added, “Ohio correctly recognizes that even if there was not a statutory exemption for home educators from attending public school, there is a fundamental constitutional right for a parent to teach their own child at home.”
Four days later, the mom received a message from the school district saying her son had been removed from their rolls.
She forwarded the news to us, adding that her family’s homeschool program was already producing benefits.
“This is our third day,” she wrote. “[My son] is doing all the things they said he was incapable of doing. He’s so much happier. Thank you so much for your help.”
—HSLDA Legal Assistant Jane White contributed to this report.