Just in time to celebrate Independence Day, South Dakota’s revised law embracing liberty for homeschool families and bolstering parental rights in education took effect July 1, 2021. The new changes cut away red tape and offer more fairness for homeschool students.

HSLDA publicly thanks Governor Kristi Noem for her leadership, vision, and support for homeschool freedom. The governor’s unwavering support was the driving force behind this historic legislation that is one of the most significant advancements for parental empowerment and homeschool liberty in decades.

The legislators who sponsored SB 177 did an outstanding job shepherding the bill through the legislature despite repeated attempts by opponents to halt the measure. And it’s difficult to overstate the impact of homeschool parents and advocates across the state who engaged in grassroots activism led and organized by Families for Alternative Instruction Rights in South Dakota (FAIRSD), a committee sponsored by The Education Alliance of Christian Home Educators in South Dakota (TEACHSD).

Thank you to all who participated in this group effort. It is refreshing to see how your voices inspired South Dakota to embrace homeschool freedom.

To help homeschool families preparing for the upcoming school year, here is a summary of the changes:

1. No More Testing

Standardized testing can be valuable for many reasons, but state law no longer mandates it. Under the old law, test results were (implicitly) due on the first day of public school for students completing 4th, 8th, and 11th grade. But with SB 177 now in effect, test results need not be submitted, even for students tested during the 2020–21 school year.

2. No More "Excuses"

The old law said homeschoolers operated under an “excuse” from compulsory attendance. The new law instead states that homeschooling is a way to comply with the compulsory school attendance law.

While this may sound like semantics, being in compliance instead of excused from compliance will help homeschool students and families facing discrimination or other legal situations that require documenting compliance with the law.

3. No Birth Certificate

Families new to homeschooling no longer need to file a birth certificate or affidavit in lieu thereof.

4. Notice: Big Changes.

  1. Under the old law, families were required to file a homeschool notice every year. Under the new law, families file once, and file again only if the child enrolls in a school or the family moves to a different school district.
  2. Under the old law, Department of Education officials sometimes sought information that families were not required to supply under law. The new law continues to require that families use the department’s notice forms, but it forbids the department from seeking any information not explicitly mandated under law.
  3. Under the old law, the annual notice needed to be filed by the first day of public school. For a family starting mid-year, there was the potential for them to be accused of truancy for every day they did not file the notice after withdrawing the child from school. Under the new law, families can file up to 30 days after starting their homeschool program. This is great for families who start homeschooling in the midst of a crisis. But the best plan is to file your notice as soon as possible so you don’t forget.

5. Enforcement

  1. Under the old law, the procedures for enforcement were complex. Authority was split between state and local representatives. The final step in the process was an appeal to the state board of education.
  2. Under the new law, the state has no role in enforcement. All enforcement is local, just like the enforcement of other laws. A truant officer can file a complaint against a family if there is probable cause to believe there is a violation. If a situation goes that far, it will go to a neutral judge.

6. Returning to Public School

  1. Under the old law, a homeschooled child entering public school could not be placed in a grade higher than that which corresponded to his or her age. The new law allows a child to be placed in one grade higher.
  2. The old law allowed a family to appeal the public school’s placement of a secondary student, only. The new law extends this right to parents who want to challenge a child’s primary school placement.

7. Open Enrollment Simplified

Under the new law, a homeschool student has a right to open enroll to another district, or different school within the same district, with the same limitations as their public-school counterparts. This opens up new opportunities for part-time enrollment and activities participation.

8. Participate in Public School Sports, Fine Arts, Activities

The new law gives homeschool students the right to participate in public school sports, fine arts, and activities, including those governed by the South Dakota High School Activities Association, subject to the same generally applicable rules. Parents must supply a transcript of the student’s work from the most recently completed semester along with additional information as required by local district policies and activity codes of conduct.