Several homeschool families in the Smithville School District (north of Kansas City) received a confusing and somewhat threatening letter.

The letter said a written declaration of intention to homeschool “should be turned in to the district within 30 days after the establishment of the homeschool.” It said, “please complete and return by 2/1/2022.” The letter suggested the possibility of a truancy investigation, and elsewhere, it said families “may” file the declaration.

When an official entrusted with the power to initiate law enforcement tells a citizen to “please” do something, it doesn’t sound optional. It comes across as a euphemism for “do it, or I may exercise my authority over you.” If a police officer (for example) tells me to “please” do something, I’m not likely to say, “Oh, no thanks.” 

No Mandate

A public school superintendent wields a certain amount of law-enforcement authority. If he or she tells a citizen to “please” do something, the citizen can be excused for being a bit concerned and thinking that something bad will happen if they say “no.”

The statute (167.042), which allows a homeschool family to file a declaration of enrollment, makes the filing unambiguously optional. If the superintendent tells families to “please” file it, it is absolutely necessary to follow up and explicitly say, “. . . but it is optional.”

I sent a letter to the Smithville superintendent of schools conveying this message late in the day on January 18. The superintendent replied the next day and confirmed that families can disregard his letter and will experience no consequences.

I appreciate his quick clarification.