Like so many families across the country this fall, after pondering tough choices about the best way to educate their children, more New York City parents have switched to homeschooling.

According to the New York Post there are at least an additional 2,526 homeschool students in the city this year—a 31% increase.

Other reports show that only 26% of schoolchildren in New York City are attending in-person instruction.

In fact, so many parents embraced the advantages of home education that the New York Office of Home Schooling became overwhelmed, and school officials could not keep up with the notifications that were coming in.

Home School Legal Defense Association began hearing of problems even before the Post reported on this issue in October.

A Close Watch

Because of our lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education four years ago we have been monitoring the number of homeschoolers in the city and reviewing whether school officials were following state-mandated time frames for processing paperwork. After our most recent report in August (for the first half of 2020), our local attorney, Sean Eccles, and I urged the New York City Department of Education to prepare for a significant increase in homeschool families.

Unfortunately, with everything else going on with education in the city, and the lack of personnel in the department, homeschool families began to be contacted by officials demanding to know where their children were.

Even parents who had notified their local public school that they were now homeschooling received calls and messages. Some homeschool families heard their children kept appearing on the school roster two weeks or more after being withdrawn. A few parents were even told that a report to the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)—otherwise known as child protective services, or CPS—would be made if their children were not in school.

Based upon our experience, things needed to change quickly or a number of these new homeschool parents might have faced CPS investigations because of the delay in processing their paperwork.

Timely Intervention

Sean scheduled a meeting with the New York City Law Department and provided several examples of homeschool paperwork going unprocessed well beyond the state-mandated time frame.

We informed the New York City Department of Education that, should these delays result in damages to families, we would pursue further action.

Fortunately, due to the work of Sean and the New York Post, the New York City Department of Education focused more attention on the threatening situation these new homeschool families were in. By early November the Office of Home Schooling said that they had caught up with all new homeschool families who had reported in the fall.

In New York City, parents who intend to homeschool their children should notify the Office of Home Schooling regardless of the local school district they live in. This applies across all five boroughs.

Once the parents submit their notice of intent, the Office of Home Schooling has two weeks to withdraw the child from their local school and assign them to homeschooling. Unfortunately, only the Office of Home Schooling can transfer these students out of their old school.

Even if local officials know the parents intend to homeschool their child, if the child is still on the school roster after 30 days, they must review for possible referral to ACS for educational neglect. And just like Tanya Acevedo found out, that can lead to a traumatic experience. HSLDA continues to monitor this and similar situations to defend and advocate for all homeschool families!

It is our hope that the office will be able to keep on top of any new homeschool intent notices that come in through the rest of this school year. If you hear of any problems, please let us know!