May 7, 2019—Don’t Use State’s Form

Maine law does not require families to use any form when they submit their homeschool paperwork. So why did at least one Androscoggin County family receive a letter saying the Department of Education “expects” families to use forms the Department recently created?

Maine has an odd system that requires families to file their paperwork in two places—with their local school, and with the Department of Education. Frankly, it wastes everyone’s time—not to mention doubling the burden of storing all that redundant paperwork!

The commonsense solution would be to fix the law so families file their paperwork in only one location.

But the Department of Education recently took a different approach. It created forms. Unfortunately, the forms call for information you are not required to give. Anyone who uses the department’s forms is giving the government information to which it is not entitled. This could cause unexpected adverse consequences.

For all or most families, the best path is to continue sending in their paperwork as they always have, and avoid the department’s forms.

Here’s another good reason to avoid the department’s forms. If enough families use them, it’s possible that a bill will be filed in the legislature to make the forms mandatory for everyone.

Forms that comply 100% with state law are available to all HSLDA members on our website.

June 25, 2019—What’s Wrong with the Department of Education Forms?

As my earlier messages explain, these forms fail to conform to state law and ask for information to which the department is not entitled. Using them could lead to adverse circumstances.

The best way to protect freedom is to use it. Homeschool families who back away from exercising the freedoms that are lawfully theirs leave those freedoms vulnerable to erosion. Use it or lose it. That’s the big picture.

July 10, 2019—Public School District Says State “Expects” All to Use Online System

The effort of the Maine Department of Education to induce all homeschool families to use an online process they created is spawning confusion.

A Lewiston-area family received a letter from a school representative saying that the Department of Education “is expecting all parents to enter homeschool information online.” I contacted the representative to get a little clarification. I said:

Your letter says the Department “expects” families to use their online system for submitting an initial or subsequent year notice. I suppose it’s interesting to know what the Department “expects.” A much more important question, of course, is what is required.

Are homeschool families required to use the Department’s online system and forms, or is it optional?

She replied that she had misunderstood something she had received from the department, and that using the online process is optional.

Maine law does not require families to stipulate either a “homeschool year” or “school year.” The department deviates from the law by insisting that families commit themselves to a school year.

Acknowledgement won’t be sent?

When a family starts to homeschool a child, they file what Maine law refers to as a “written notice of intent.” The idea of a “notice” is very simple: It’s a unilateral announcement. It’s effective even if no one responds to it in any way. Think about legal notices in a newspaper: they are effective even if no one reads them! But the department form warns: “If no email is provided, acknowledgment of submission will not be sent.” Here’s the problem with that: you don’t need the department to “acknowledge” your notice! Your notice is effective even if no official ever acknowledges it. The department is threatening to withhold something no one needs . . . but a person unfamiliar with the law might be frightened into surrendering their email address. Bluffing and bullying is not consistent with Maine law.

Need to list the name of your school district?

The department’s form says families must list the name of their school district. Maine law does not require this.

Month and date of birth?

The department form says families must list each child’s month of birth. This is not required under Maine law, however. The department’s form lists date of birth as optional, which is appropriate, but month of birth should have been listed as optional as well.

First or subsequent year of homeschool?

Maine law makes a very clear, simple distinction between the long notice families must file when starting to homeschool a child, and the much shorter “statement” they must file each subsequent year to confirm that the child’s homeschool program is continuing. The department’s form demolishes this distinction by making families file the same long form every year.

Last year of homeschool?

Maine law does not require families to tell any official when they are starting their last year of homeschooling. But the department’s form makes this mandatory.

Promise you will obey the law?

The department’s form requires families to promise (in effect) that they will obey the homeschool laws. But no law requires this. What are we to make of this? The department goes outside the boundaries of the law in order to demand that others obey the law!

Full-time homeschool?

While the department’s paper form indicates that families can choose to state whether the child is homeschooled full time, the department’s online process will not allow a family to submit the notice unless they divulge that information.

Is your child “registered”?

The department’s online process (but not the paper form) indicates that you are “registering” a child and a homeschool program. However, Maine law does not say families must “register” their child or their homeschool program. There is a difference. For example, a “registration” can be rejected. A “notice” cannot. By calling it a “registration,” the department is arrogating to itself powers it does not lawfully possess.

For many years, Maine law gave the department power to create homeschool regulations. Those were difficult years. The department sometimes adopted regulations despite the overwhelming opposition of the homeschool community. Thankfully, the legislature abolished the department’s power to make homeschool regulations.

The leadership and staff of the department are not elected by the citizens. In order to maintain our freedom, we must insist that we be governed by our elected representatives—not by a department policy or regulation.

July 24, 2019—Update: What’s Wrong with the Department of Education Forms?

The Department of Education has rectified some of its errors that I pointed out on June 25. But since important errors remain, we continue to recommend that families not use the state’s form or the state’s online filing system.

Here are the errors that remain.

  • The department continues to demand every child’s birth date, though state law only requires age.
  • The department continues to demand that families identify a specific school year, though state law does not require this.
  • The department’s online system continues to refer to filing a notice as “registering a child.”
  • The department continues to snowball the initial notice of intent into the subsequent year letter, although they are separate and different under state law.

You can help the cause of freedom by submitting only what is required under state law.

Thank you for standing with us for freedom!

August 1, 2019—The School Rejected My Notice: What Now?

A mom in the Sumner area sent a letter to public school officials to let them know she was going to continue her child’s homeschool program.

(She crafted the letter using a form provided by Homeschoolers of Maine.)

A school representative responded by letter with bad advice based on a misguided perception of homeschool law.

“I received your application to continue homeschooling your child,” the official wrote “Unfortunately, I can’t accept this application.”

She added that the homeschool mother needed to resubmit her “application” via a new website portal created by the state Department of Education, or by using “the enclosed paper application.”

Here’s the problem. In Maine there is no such thing as a homeschool “application.” And neither of the paperwork procedures cited by the official are required.

More than a Label

With the state education department calling the notice that homeschool families file a “registration” or “enrollment,” which it is not, it’s no surprise that some local officials might think of the notice as an “application”—which it is not. There is a huge difference!

A “registration,” “enrollment,” or “application” requires the action of two parties: the citizen seeking to register, enroll or apply, and the official who decides if the registration, etc., will be accomplished. With these, the official is in control.

But that’s not the law. Maine law puts the citizen in control.

It does this by saying that what parents file is a “notice.” A notice is the action of one person alone. It does not require a response from another person. The purpose of a notice is accomplished once the notice is given.

Think of the boring legal notices in the back of your local newspaper. They accomplish what they are supposed to do even if no one ever reads them.

It’s the same for homeschool paperwork. Your initial notice and subsequent year letter accomplish their job even if no official ever responds. It makes no difference if an official never opens your letter, or promptly discards it, or (like the Sumner official) rejects it and sends it back. In fact, a letter of rejection is proof that they received your notice!

Your job in this context is to submit paperwork on time that fully complies with the law. That is an important job and should be approached conscientiously.

It is also your job to keep documentation to prove that you sent your paperwork. It could be a printed confirmation of the receipt of a fax or an email receipt. It could be the receipt returned to you after sending your letter via U.S. mail return receipt requested. It could be a copy of your paperwork the school secretary has initialed to acknowledge receipt. Every document you need to prove that you have complied with Maine law should be maintained in your permanent records. This is just common sense.

I called the Sumner official to discuss the letter she sent. After a friendly conversation, she acknowledged that she should not have used the word “application.” Also, she acknowledged that families can file paperwork without using the state’s forms or portal.

October 16, 2019—The Threats Amount to Nothing

Here is some good news for Maine. Not one homeschool family (that we know of) has been charged with truancy on account of standing their ground and refusing to supply their child’s birth date or their school year in the face of groundless demands from officials.

Here is more that should be comforting. The state Department of Education is pushing local schools hard on this issue, but the department has no power to enforce the truancy law against you. It’s just not their job. Only local officials can do it.

For more reassurance, check out the truancy process mandated under state law. It is composed of many small, time-consuming steps that local school officials must follow if they think a child is truant. Here is a summary of those steps.

After a school principal determines that a student is truant, the principal must notify the superintendent within five days of the last unexcused absence.

The student must then be referred to school staff to determine the cause and impact of the truancy.

If the school staff find a negative effect from the truancy, they must develop an “intervention plan.”

If the intervention plan does not work, the superintendent must notify the school board and give the parents written warning.

The superintendent must then schedule a meeting with the parents and student.

If the parents refuse to attend the meeting and the student is still truant, the school must refer it to local enforcement officials.

Local enforcement officials then decide if they want to initiate any enforcement action in court.

Once a school initiates the steps, there are many places along the way where parents can re-evaluate what they want to do. There are numerous opportunities to fine-tune one’s approach.

Many local school officials are gradually recognizing that the department is pushing an agenda that is not within the boundaries of the law. And you play a crucial part in opposing that agenda.

HSLDA has worked with many families across the state on this issue, and so as far as we know, no local school has even gotten to step one. I am optimistic that common sense will prevail.

Meanwhile, I urge you to keep in mind two powerful quotes.

From Frederick Douglass:

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted.”

For those of us who care deeply about obeying the biblical injunction to “give to everyone what you owe them” (Romans 13:7a), I offer this reminder: You do not “owe” it to any official to provide your child’s birth date or your school year, as HSLDA sees it. And if you are an HSLDA member, we will back you up on that.