Homeschool parents in New York are required to keep a lot of records and to submit a copious amount of paperwork. But one thing they are free to do without notifying anyone is to move their families.
Apparently, this is too much freedom for some officials.
Recently, several member families who used to live in New York asked HSLDA for help after officials threatened action unless the parents submitted documents not required by law.
One of these families contacted the Longwood Central School District over the winter and notified them, as a courtesy, that they were leaving New York.
They heard nothing until April, when they received an email insisting that they fill out a “discontinuation form” to remove their children from the school database. When the family respectfully declined to fill out the detailed form on their homeschool program, the district wrote back:
“We have a process for following up when families who are homeschooling leave Longwood. We do that at the school district level. If [we are] unable to receive your new address, NYS and Suffolk would work on the follow-up to assure child welfare. I would be required to take that step as a mandated reporter.”
Another member family informed the Washingtonville Central School District that they would no longer be providing any quarterly reports or homeschool paperwork as they had moved to another state. But Washingtonville insisted that the family would have to provide a withdrawal form to remove the children from the district’s school database.
The district official even stated that HSLDA offers “a withdrawal form as well to comply with our withdrawal procedure.” We don’t.
Looking for Proof
Another member family who used to live in New York City was shocked to receive a phone call from a school attendance officer in the Central Office of Home Schooling almost a year after they moved out of state. The officer told the family that they had to provide proof of their new address along with an acceptance letter from the child’s new school district.
Homeschooling parents in New York have come to expect some confusion and even misapplication of the state’s complex regulations from local school officials, which explains why many are happy to find homeschool laws elsewhere more reasonable.
What surprised these HSLDA member families is that the confusion and misapplication of the law followed them even after leaving New York!
The fact is New York does not require parents to terminate their home education program when they move. There is no process to even transfer the homeschool program from one school district to another. Technically, you can simply stop reporting when you move out of state.
However, because New York homeschool parents are required to submit so much paperwork throughout the school year—an annual notice of intent, individual instruction plans, quarterly reports, and an annual assessment—most parents provide a courtesy
notice that they have moved.
In each of the above situations, this should have been enough. But it clearly wasn’t.
Back to the Law
To clarify what New York’s law actually requires, I contacted the local public school officials in each family’s former district and pointed out what was wrong with their demands. No school district in New York can prohibit a parent from leaving
the state or require them to fill out a form before withdrawing their child from homeschooling. Simply moving to another state does not give rise to a concern for the child’s welfare. And no school district in New York can require a parent to
provide an “acceptance letter” from the new school district.
And, if the family moved to a state like Texas or Oklahoma, this would not even be possible. In these states, the right to educate your child at home does not depend on any notice of intent to local school officials, making obtaining such paperwork impossible.
We were able to assist each of these families in protecting their privacy and prohibiting the school district from demanding records beyond what the law requires. In one situation Homeschool New York (LEAH) and HSLDA involved the New York State Education Department in an attempt to notify them of the heavy-handed approach by local school officials.
Frequently, our work in New York involves educating school officials on what the law actually says as we defend our member families from unnecessary and unlawful demands for information. Most of these situations are resolved simply and efficiently
through a letter, email, or phone call. If you hear of similar problems, please contact us or Homeschool New York (LEAH) so we can support you and settle small misunderstandings before they have a chance to escalate into conflicts.