As Americans face an unusual and fluid situation regarding schools reopening for the fall, HSLDA wants to remind homeschool families that the laws for how to start (or continue) a home education program have not changed.
We have been prompted to issue this reminder because officials in several states have either forgotten—or have chosen to disregard—these laws.
Seeking Extra Information
Several homeschool families in Kentucky have reported out-of-bounds requests by officials, including demands for private information, curriculum, and school calendars.
For instance, Eminence Independent Schools sent a letter to parents replete with misinformation about homeschool requirements.
The letter told parents to submit their homeschool notice of intent by August 1. It also stated that the district’s director of pupil personnel intended “to meet with all of the homeschool families this year.” Families who did not want to meet with school officials were told to “send a copy of your intended school calendar and a reference in your letter to the homeschool program you are using.”
When a family called Oldham County school officials to say that they would be homeschooling their children, an office manager replied that the family needed to provide a list of the curriculum that they were going to use.
In Spencer County, a family was told that, in order to withdraw their child from public school, they needed to visit the office and fill out a form.
Parents in Shelby County were requested to submit a “declaration of participation to home school” form that demanded each child’s date of birth, grade level, as well as curriculum and school calendar.
A letter to homeschooling families in Edmonson County went even further, also requiring each child’s sex and address, contact information for each homeschool, as well the names of all teachers and tutors.
Knox County homeschool families received a letter warning “if you do not submit a letter of intent or notification to home school and do not re-enter your child/children in public or private school, your child/children will be considered truant and therefore, subject to court action.”
Getting at the Truth
These spurious requirements violate not only the letter of the law, but its intention as well.
But first, here’s what the law actually says.
In Kentucky, a homeschool parent is operating a private school. State law requires that all private schools notify local school boards “within two (2) weeks of the beginning of each school year.” This has always been interpreted to mean up until two weeks after the start of school.
In addition, this does not prevent parents from beginning to homeschool after the start of the traditional school year. Instead, according to the Best Practice Document agreed to by the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel and Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK), submitting your notice within the first two weeks of the beginning of each school year presumes that you are operating a bona fide private school.
Finally, there is a limit to how much information parents must provide regarding their homeschools. Kentucky law states that private schools “shall report . . . the names, ages, and places of residence of all pupils in attendance” at the school. Information like gender, grade level, phone number, etc. may be provided but certainly is not required.
And now a word about the spirit of the law and homeschool freedom.
While homeschool parents are required teach the same subjects that are typically taught in the public schools, Kentucky law does not enable local school officials to have any say in what curriculum that a private school/homeschool uses. In an important case before the Supreme Court of Kentucky, the court held that:
The Commonwealth's power to prescribe textbooks for use in private and parochial schools is likewise limited by Section 5 [of the state constitution]. The textual materials used in the public schools are at the very heart of the conscientious opposition to those schools. To say that one may not be compelled to send a child to a public school but that the state may determine the basic texts to be used in the private or parochial schools is but to require that the same hay be fed in the field as is fed in the barn. Section 5 protects a diversified diet. Ky. State Bd. for Elementary & Secondary Educ. v. Rudasill, 589 S.W.2d 877 (Ky. 1979)
No homeschool/private school student is required to consume or digest the same hay/curriculum that is being taught in the public school.
When we get word of local school districts demanding information that is not legally required or attempting to mandate a meeting before “allowing” a parent to homeschool their child, we will step in and correct the officials misunderstanding of law. If your school district attempts any of these overreaches, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
While we don’t believe there is a statewide attempt by school officials to demand these extra requirements, it is the time of year when some Kentucky school officials typically try to make them. And with the increased interest in homeschooling, some school officials appear to be trying to limit the exodus.