A school principal and a police offer showed up at the front door of a Missouri family a few weeks ago—on the very first day of their homeschool year.
This family’s homeschool journey began during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the mom attended a local school board meeting to express her disagreement with the new mask policy for children, the board quickly shut her up: “You’re not allowed to speak out like that! You must follow proper procedures.”
The mom was also growing increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the students in her son’s classroom were not using any physical books. Her son spent most of his time at school on a laptop. He never had a spelling test.
Fill Out This Paperwork
In September of 2021, the school asked and then insisted parents fill out (optional) paperwork for the state’s free and reduced price school lunches program.
The mom forgot to fill out the paperwork. Then the principal walked into her son’s classroom and announced that the parents of three children present had not filled out the forms. Those three children—including her son—were required to do assigned reading, while the rest were allowed recreational time.
The principal bullying her son was the last straw. The next day, the mom walked into the school office to withdraw her son to homeschool.
The secretary handed her a declaration of homeschool enrollment form and said, “Here, you must sign this.” When the mom questioned it, the secretary said, “According to the state, we are responsible for the children.” Unaware that the form was not required, the mom signed it.
The homeschool curriculum she picked involved a placement test. Her son—who had been in public school from kindergarten through 7th grade—scored two grade levels behind in some subjects, and three grade levels behind in others. So much for the public school being “responsible” for the child!
Anything to Declare?
The following summer, the school pressured her to sign another declaration of enrollment for the 2022-23 school year. This time the mom decided to do some research.
She found an article online that said a declaration of enrollment is optional in her state. So she told the school she would not sign the form for this year.
The school later left a message on her phone telling her that she was past the September 1 deadline for filing the declaration of enrollment. They sounded serious, but she had no intention of filling out the form.
She immediately applied to join HSLDA. She was a bit worried, though, because she saw on our website that processing her application could take up to three weeks. She was concerned that the school officials would do something before her application was processed.
A neighbor tried to assuage her fears. “This is a small town, people know you,” the neighbor said. “They won’t come to your house!” And Labor Day did pass uneventfully.
But the next day, September 6, she saw a uniformed officer and another person walking up to her house. It was the school principal and a town police officer.
“We have tried to contact you,” the principal said, trying to hand her a piece of paper. “You need to sign this form.”
Although the mom was shaky and nervous, she said: “I don’t believe I have to sign that. If I sign that, the school will use it to get more money.”
The principal seemed surprised and said, “I didn’t know that.”
“Since my kid doesn’t go to that school, they should not get money for my kid,” she replied.
“I will go research it,” the police officer said. “If I find out that you are wrong, you will be charged with criminal neglect.”
As soon as they left, the mom immediately called HSLDA for help. It was 1:30 p.m. Two hours later I faxed a letter to the principal explaining that the declaration of enrollment form is always optional.
What the Law Says
“Using a sworn law enforcement officer to attempt to intimidate a citizen into doing something that is not required is entirely unacceptable,” I wrote. “If you were innocently unaware that signing a declaration of enrollment is optional, please convey an apology promptly.”
By the following morning at 8 a.m., the principal had left an apology on the mom’s voicemail. She told us she could hardly believe it.
Looking back on this whirlwind week, she added:
“HSLDA is such a blessing! I signed up on Friday—I was accepted in two days, not weeks! The officer was here at 1:00 p.m. and by 3:30 you guys were faxing letters! Very quick! I can’t tell you how thankful I am. I kept re-reading the letter and going, ‘Wow, that’s powerful!’”
She also expressed deep gratitude for the thousands of families who have supported HSLDA’s work over the years, allowing us to deliver quick, effective action when a family is in trouble.