We’ve been busy in Pennsylvania! As the August 1 deadline approaches for homeschool families to send in their notarized affidavit or unsworn declaration, we’ve had a significant increase in school districts that need to be reminded about the homeschool law.
Here’s a quick recap of where we stand right now:
Lancaster Area School District
When a homeschool mom went to the school district office to drop off her homeschool paperwork, a school district staffer denied her access to the building and refused to accept her paperwork. This staffer told her the only way the school district could accept homeschoolers’ filings was through the school district’s online portal.
The mom went home and called HSLDA. We called and emailed the school district to remind them about the law (which says nothing about homeschoolers needing to use an online portal). The school district staffer responded with an email acknowledging homeschool families do not need to use the online portal.
HSLDA reminds our member families that if a school district attempts to impose requirements that don’t seem right, such as using an online portal to submit information, please call our office. For families who are concerned about the vulnerability of online systems, certified mail remains a safe alternative for sending documents to a school district.
Unsworn Declaration vs. Notarized Affidavit
In the spring of 2020, the Pennsylvania legislature passed, and then-Governor Tom Wolf signed into law, the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act, which significantly broadened the flexibility of Pennsylvania families to use an unsworn declaration (signed under penalty of perjury) in lieu of a notarized affidavit.
Despite the clear language of this act, and a supportive Commonwealth Court decision explaining the breadth of this new law (in the context of an election dispute), a handful of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts (including Tulpehocken Area School District and Franklin Area School District) have “rejected” unsworn declarations submitted by homeschool families. HSLDA is representing several families who have been told their unsworn declarations are unacceptable.
If your school district is telling you that you may not use an unsworn declaration, and you are an HSLDA member, please contact our office.
Birth certificates, residency verification, and high school diplomas
A handful of school districts have been demanding that families submit copies of their children’s birth certificates, proof of residency, or a copy of their high school diploma. We believe it is clear that the Pennsylvania legislature has determined that a parent’s signature under penalty of perjury (either on an unsworn declaration or on a notarized affidavit) is sufficient corroboration of the child’s identity, the family’s residence, and the parent’s educational qualifications.
We recommend that you contact us if you have received such a demand. If the demand was in writing, please send it to us.
Proof of immunizations and medical information
Numerous school districts have been requesting proof of immunizations, or proof of medical and dental information. Pennsylvania law gives parents the right to exempt their children from medical, dental and immunization requirements “on religious grounds or on the basis of a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief.” (28 Pa. Code § 23.84)
Each family's situation is different, and each family has different beliefs and goals. Additionally, there is tremendous variation in how each of the 500 or so school districts in Pennsylvania handle this issue, since each school district is an independent entity. If a school district asks for this information and you would like our input, please contact our office so we can discuss your options.
This is just a sample of the controversies we are seeing. But as a homeschool graduate from Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and as a homeschool dad myself, I am excited to be serving you! If you’re not a member of HSLDA, please consider joining so that we can help you exercise your legal rights as a Pennsylvania homeschooler.