A family in Madison County, Indiana, had been considering switching to homeschooling. When their local district mistakenly accused their kids of missing a collective nine weeks of school—and then sent a CPS investigator to check on them—all deliberation ended.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, like most of the students in the district, this family’s kids had been staying home but attending public school online.
The family had a practice of logging all of their children into their classes each morning at the same time. Each child had a separate space to do their work, which their parents monitored throughout the day. So, when the school corporation first notified them of the days their children had not been counted as present, the family was confused—especially when each child was identified as having missed a different number of days (from oldest to youngest, 26, 21, and 23 days).
The parents contacted school officials and provided evidence that their children had been doing their schoolwork and making progress. But the district ignored the proof and instead reported the family to the local Department of Child Services (DCS) for educational neglect.
Numbers Keep Changing
On a conference call with the school officials and DCS, they were told that after further investigation the children had actually missed 21, 8, and 15 days respectively. There was no explanation as to why the days for their younger two children had changed so dramatically or why the children had a different number of days missed, when the parents logged them all on at the same time each day.
It is possible that poor internet coverage was to blame for occasionally dropping the kids out of a session and that the school was counting them absent, even when they logged back in. We have heard of a number of similar problems from other parents who have tried to work with virtual instruction this school year.
Some parents have even reported that their children were marked absent because they did not have a web camera (or it wasn’t working), causing the school officials to not see their children during the class.
Switching to Homeschooling
The conference call strengthened the resolve the family had to homeschool their children. I explained Indiana homeschool law and walked them through the steps to withdraw their children from the public school. After a week of homeschooling, they received a visit from the DCS caseworker who wanted to know what the children were doing in their homeschool program.
I was able to speak with the caseworker and explain the right of the parents to homeschool their children. I pointed out that such a decision was understandable given the incompetence of the local school corporation in tracking their online students and the heavy-handed way in which they dealt with their own internal technical glitches.
I assured the caseworker that the family was in compliance with Indiana law and they were providing instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools, while keeping attendance records for their children.
The family reports that a few weeks later they received notice from the DCS caseworker that the investigation had been closed.