Late this fall, I was reviewing a letter in my office that had just been forwarded by a member family. The letter began by informing the family that a copy of attendance and grade reports for all their homeschool students had not been received by local public school officials. However, it was the last paragraph in the letter that jumped out at me.

The letter stated that if the records were not received in a week’s time, the family’s homeschool program would be turned over to the county attorney. The implication was clear: if the homeschool family didn’t submit the demanded records, they could face prosecution.

Over the next few hours, HSLDA’s office received many calls and emails from other families citing the same letter with the same threat of being turned over to the county attorney. I quickly realized that I needed to drop everything else and focus on helping protect homeschool families in Bracken County, Kentucky.

What the Law Says

Under Kentucky law, a homeschool parent is actually operating a private school. State law requires anyone operating a private school to notify local officials regarding the students attending the school and to maintain certain records. These include report cards and attendance.

State law also requires private school records be open for inspection by local public school officials so all records can be reviewed. However, because all families have a constitutionally protected right to privacy in their home, no government official can simply demand entrance to inspect their homeschool records.

Over 25 years ago, Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK) and other homeschool groups were involved in creating a “Best Practice Document” with the board of directors of the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel. The purpose of this document was to help establish constitutionally sound application of Kentucky private school law to homeschooling.

A key principle of this document declares that when homeschool parents submit the notice to homeschool in accordance with state law (within two weeks of the beginning of the school year) they are presumed to be operating a bona fide school. Another important principle is that attendance records and report cards can only be requested if there is evidence that the family is not homeschooling or following state law.

Mass Request

In Kentucky, local school officials will occasionally request attendance and scholarship records (i.e. report cards) from every family in the school district. In fact, Bracken County Schools made a generic request for the records of every homeschool family in the county in late September. After being contacted by a number of member families in Bracken County, we wrote a letter to the director of pupil personnel and reminded them of the Best Practice Document. We also declined to submit the requested records on behalf of our members living in the district.

With this latest threat to report any homeschool family to the county attorney, I knew I had to take more action. Immediately, I called both the director of pupil personnel and the school superintendent and left a detailed message. I also wrote a detailed letter explaining both state law and the Best Practice Document to these officials.

I informed the school officials that per state law, homeschool parents are not required to turn over their records unless there is some specific evidence against their homeschool program. I requested that the school officials notify me if they had any evidence of any homeschool family in Bracken County who was not complying with Kentucky law. Finally, I assured local school officials that HSLDA would defend any member family who was referred to the county attorney and that we would see them in court if they continued to harass these families.

Since sending this letter, we obtained confirmation from school officials that they received my letter and understood our stance. These same officials failed to provide any evidence that a single homeschool family was not educating their children or complying with Kentucky law.