With an unprecedented number of families choosing to homeschool this fall, and public schools opening with various degrees of in-person and distance learning, it’s not surprising officials are scrambling to manage their own enrollment and attendance issues.
Home School Legal Defense Association has heard from a number of Ohio parents who have been receiving personal and automatic telephone calls—robocalls—asking where their children are going to school.
In Ohio, especially, this issue can get complicated, so some confusion is to be expected.
Attendance tracking is different from district to district in Ohio. In some counties, the duty falls to a local attendance officer. Some counties delegate the task to a regional Educational Service Center (ESC). Still others track attendance at the individual building level.
This variety makes it crucial that we understand each family’s situation in order to give customized advice, when we’re asked how families should respond to these kinds of contacts by officials. And it is a question we are being asked a lot.
Families who are notifying public school officials for the first time of their intention to homeschool are more likely to encounter this attendance issue than those who are continuing to homeschool from the previous year.
Why? Because the school already has removed veteran homeschool families from the attendance rolls, while the children of new homeschool families are still listed until the excuse letter and attendance systems sync up.
It Takes Time
If this is your first time homeschooling, you may be contacted during the first 2–3 weeks of school regarding attendance, simply because it takes some time for some of the bureaucracy’s left and right hands to talk to each other. In some districts, the updating of attendance rolls happens very quickly, whereas in others, it can take long enough that attendance calls may be made.
Such calls are unwelcome but do not necessarily mean that truancy prosecution is around the corner. Most of the time, the calls will stop once the status of a child as homeschooled is updated in the school’s attendance system.
I encourage our members to let us know if they are receiving such unwelcome contact. HSLDA is always willing to advocate by sending a letter to the school or attendance system, stating that a notice of intent (NOI) has been filed for home education.
In some cases, members may want to do this themselves with a phone call or email rather than by sending a lawyer’s letter flying into the inbox of some unsuspecting bureaucrat. Truancy calls are unwelcome, but so are lawyer’s letters. I don’t get tired of sending them, but not all homeschoolers necessarily want that kind of adversarial contact on their behalf.
Some have criticized HSLDA and other homeschoolers for submitting letters to public schools informing officials that children are being withdrawn. They suggest that because a letter of withdrawal is not required by law, anyone who submits one undermines their freedom.
However, even if this approach to letting the public authorities officially know you are not sending your child back to school may not be required by law, it does often solve the problem of harassing robocalls or unwelcome truancy contact. Just because something isn’t required by code, doesn’t mean it isn’t common sense. It also doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for everyone.
If you are a member of HSLDA, we will work with you to determine the best response to a school contact, based on your own circumstances and desired objectives. Not everyone is the same, just like in homeschooling, so we try to treat every situation as unique.
At times, we may suggest a “letter of withdrawal” sent by you or us to let the staff at the school building your student would have attended know that your child is not returning and that they should not be counted as absent. Once an excuse letter is issued, it is effective for the entire school year, so any absences counted would be excused anyway. This is only relevant in a truancy prosecution, and HSLDA has represented many Ohio families over the years who have had such situations.
Although we are encountering a record number of requests for help in Ohio, it’s only to be expected, considering we are also witnessing a record number of homeschoolers. And schools aren’t always keen on losing enrollment, a higher figure of which contributes to their funding. HSLDA is watching out for these situations and responding as families inform us and request assistance.
Forms, resources, and information are available at HSLDA’s Ohio Homepage.
Keeping homeschooling free is one of our main objectives at HSLDA. It’s a challenging time for everyone trying to navigate uncertainty and new situations.
We appreciate the trust and confidence our members have placed in us and we are working hard to serve each and every family.
If you encounter unwelcome school contacts, please let us know; we will be happy to assist. You can call us or submit an online request for help. This new form on our new website creates an immediate case in our case-management system and ensures that your issue will be handled as expeditiously as possible.
If you know a new homeschooling family, will you refer them to HSLDA? Together, we can stand for freedom and stand up for each other.