An HSLDA member family in Duval County, Florida, was more than surprised when an official showed up alleging that their son was truant from Atlantic Coast High School.
According to the guidance counselor, their son had not attended a day of classes since the beginning of the school year.
The confused counselor also produced a report card that indicated their son was enrolled in—and failing—subjects including basketball, environmental science, algebra 1, American Sign Language, and English 1. The teen had, however, apparently earned an A in the first semester exams for world history and sculpture.
The parents were not amused. They had been legally homeschooling their son his entire life—the previous six years in Duval County.
When they submitted their son’s annual home education evaluation before fall 2020, the parents confirmed their intent to continue homeschooling for the 2020–21 school year. They did this even though it is not required by state law.
Troubled that their son had been enrolled into the local public high school without their knowledge or consent, the family immediately called Home School Legal Defense Association for guidance. They also reported the case to several local and state agencies as potential educational fraud.
I spoke to the family and discovered that their son was one of several homeschool students who had been “auto-enrolled” last fall in the Duval Public Schools online program.
Part of a pattern
I had learned of the issue after hearing from several other homeschool families that their students had been enrolled without their consent, and I had contacted Duval County officials at that time.
Officials attributed the mistake to a “glitch,” pledged to restore those teens to their correct status as homeschooled students, and promised the error would not happen again.
When I contacted school officials again to investigate this most recent case, I received similar apologies and assurances.
Those simply weren’t good enough for the teen’s mother.
“This is a complete travesty,” she told me. “To call what happened ‘auto-enrollment’ does a disservice to thinking people and state and federal taxpayers."
She added that the incident “gives us and everyone else aware of this problem a glimpse into the obvious disorganization of the public school system and the lack of oversight.”
I, too, felt that most of our questions and concerns about how that incident happened had been left unanswered.
When I called to follow up with the home education office, I was told the same “glitch” that had caused this young man to be enrolled in the public school in the fall had only been discovered when the school returned to in-person instruction. However, news reports indicate that Duval County Public Schools required transitioning from hybrid to in-person learning for all high schools beginning September 28, 2020.
While there was some assurance that officials were looking into it, there was no promise that other home education students weren’t still floating around registered as public school students, all unknown to their parents.
While this young man is now officially a home education student once again, we continue to follow up with Duval County. We want to ensure that no other homeschool parents get a knock at the door from a truancy officer and learn that their student has been enrolled in public school without their consent.
Meanwhile, we encourage member families who have questions about navigating similar difficulties to call HSLDA.
As the parents we recently helped graciously told me: “Every homeschooling family should purchase an HSLDA membership—you never know when you will have to contact a lawyer about a homeschooling problem with local officials.”