“My kids love it,” a mom in West Virginia recently told me about her family’s switch to homeschooling. “They love that they don’t have a rigid schedule to get up at six to get on bus. They can take breaks and don’t have to sit in a chair all day. I really didn’t think I could do it. I was concerned more about the social aspects of it and that my kids might not have time with their friends. But as it turns out, my kids have made more friends now than before.”
This family was visited by public school officials who challenged their choice in schooling. The rapid growth in homeschooling has certainly put pressure on public school systems to keep up with attendance, but the frequency of these home visits have increased significantly.
Perhaps in response to public school enrollment declining, families in West Virginia and Kentucky have relayed several reports of truant officers and teachers making their way through neighborhoods, going door-to-door to check up on families, and even trying to enroll children in remote learning programs on the spot.
Families have told us that the teachers are not only uninformed about who is homeschooling, they are not familiar with the homeschool law for their state.
This West Virginia mother couldn’t help but share the joy her family was experiencing after switching to homeschooling.
“My kids are 11 and 7, and I really didn’t want them sitting in front of a computer all day,” she said, recalling how distance-learning through their local public school last spring just hadn’t worked well. “I had thought about homeschooling before, and I figured it was now or never, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Honestly, it’s the best decision I ever made.”
What You Can Do
As I reminded our members dealing with a similar situation in Ohio, it’s always good to remember officials are just doing their jobs. In the case of police visits, they often did not “ask” to be sent to your house, and in some cases may even disagree with being used as school attendance officers. Different states manage absentee issues differently, and even different school districts and counties can use different procedures.
When preparing for possible contact with officials, two of the most important things you as a homeschool parent can do:
- be familiar with your state’s homeschool law. (You can find it at HSLDA.org/mystate.)
- keep records of any paperwork you submitted to officials related to your homeschool program.
Families Stand Firm
If a public official shows up at your door without a warrant, you are not obligated to either admit them to your home or disclose any information. It’s always a good idea to remain polite when dealing with government officials at your door. Knowing your rights, identifying the official’s concerns, and understanding what the official is asking you to do are necessary steps to getting advice from your HSLDA legal team.
One homeschool family in West Virginia’s Kanawha County followed this approach successfully. After the family had sent in their required notice of intent and received an acknowledgment back from the county school board, they moved ahead with their homeschool program.
One morning a uniformed police officer knocked on the door, stating he was there to “check up on the kids” since they had not been “signed in” to their online classes. When the mother explained that the children were being homeschooled, the officer told the mother to call the local public school and make sure things were worked out and then left.
When the mom called the school, she was told that sending police officers to conduct truancy checks was standard procedure. After the mother identified that she was homeschooling with a written acknowledgement from the school board, the officials stated there would be no more police visits to her home.
In a neighboring county, another family’s homeschool day was interrupted by two teachers from the local public school district who wanted to know why the students had not signed on to their distance-learning classes. They asked for her “approval” letter, and she stated she had submitted all of the required paperwork. The mother explained she was homeschooling legally.
At this point the teachers initiated a conversation with her three children who had come to the door, asking whether the children “missed” their friends at school and if they wanted to “come back.” The mother sent her children back into the home while the teachers snapped a photo on their phones of the homeschool acknowledgment letter she had received from the county school board.
HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt recently assisted a Kentucky family who had been visited by public school teachers trying to get them to sign up on the spot for online classes.
Teachers were insistent and criticized the family for homeschooling. Like in the previous case, these teachers also asked whether the children “missed” their friends and school and if they wanted to “come back to school.”
Tj called the local school district to alert them of the strong-arm tactics used by the teachers, adding that the family felt harassed by the visit. Officials replied that they were only “trying to inform” families about the availability of online learning.
Helping families with government contacts and other questions about homeschooling is a service HSLDA has provided for nearly 40 years. We consider it a privilege to be able to share our experience with many more families as home education undergoes unprecedented growth.
If you know someone who is homeschooling, we invite you to tell them about HSLDA.
Note: HSLDA recognizes that the vast majority of law enforcement officials and truancy investigators are law-abiding public servants acting professionally. Unfortunately, sometimes a few officials may act in ways that are unnecessarily—and even, on occasion, unlawfully—intrusive. HSLDA has a legal emergency hotline available 24/7 to provide our members with prompt access to legal advice when they are confronted by public officials at their home.