A mom in Minnesota had submitted her annual homeschool notice—and even received a confirmation email from the local public school superintendent. That’s why she was taken aback when a truant officer showed up at her home.
The visit occurred a few weeks past the deadline for filing the paperwork.
“It was just out of the blue,” Lindsey Weiers recounted.
However, given the uncertainty cause by the current pandemic, along with the fact that this was the first time she had filed via email, Lindsey said she had mentally prepared herself to encounter some sort of miscue by local officials.
Just not an unannounced check at her home.
“He was really respectful,” recalled Lindsey. “And he did not ask to see the kids.”
The truant officer said he was there to check up on the family’s paperwork, which Lindsey assured him she had filed. In fact, this is the third year the Weiers have complied with Minnesota’s homeschool law. They’ve been homeschooling their two boys since kindergarten; their oldest is now in the 4th grade.
Though the officer insisted his visit was a matter of routine, Lindsey said his assurances did little to console her. She added that she found herself unnerved at the thought that she had taken extra care to follow the law and had still come under investigation.
Afterward Lindsey followed up with the homeschool compliance official at her local public school district, re-sending copies of her paperwork.
The official replied that the incident was no big deal.
“Yes, it is kind of a big deal,” Lindsey responded. She provided her full contact information and told the official, “I prefer a call or an email before you send an officer out.”
Protecting a precedent
Lindsey also contacted Mike Donnelly, the Home School Legal Defense Association attorney for Minnesota.
Mike said he appreciated hearing from Lindsey, because her story helps him in crafting a response to a trend he’s seeing in Minnesota and other states.
“Some of the school districts have been pretty aggressive, saying that if you don’t submit documentation they’re going to prosecute you,” he explained.
Mike added that he has offered general advice to a number of homeschool families about how to respond when a government official knocks on your door (be courteous, but stand on your rights). In several cases he’s also communicated directly with public school districts on behalf of HSLDA members
Most of the time, he said, “officials back off, and we’re able to resolve these situations.”
In addition to defending homeschoolers, Mike said he aims at reminding officials to follow protocol and maintain proper records so that mistakes on their end don’t create headaches for innocent families.
He added that it’s also important to curb these improper investigations so that they don’t become routine or turn into fishing expeditions.
“I don’t think they realize that this can really affect someone’s freedom,” she concluded.