Homeschoolers are being threatened with truancy by the school district if they do not attend school while the homeschool notification is being processed by the district. The reason being that they are not excused yet and therefore, are still under the compulsory attendance statute (ORC 3321.04) which states that the district has an obligation to know that students between the ages of 6 years and 18 years are enrolled in a program.
Home education notification, appropriately filed by the parent, satisfies the district’s mandate under compulsory attendance statute. The district is advised where the child/ren will be and that the child/ren will be in a program provided by the parents, instructed at home. The State Board of Education adopted the rules which parents and superintendents are required to follow in order to homeschool and such parental right is specifically protected and stated in the Purpose statement of the regulations, OAC 3301-34-02: “The purpose of the rules in this chapter is to … safeguard the primary right of parents to provide the education for their child(ren).”
If there are issues of non-compliance with a notification, the superintendent and the parent are provided with a time period and process with which to resolve these issues. (OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1)(2) ). Since they would be issues of missing information, supplying this missing data should not be cause for considering a child truant. Further, the district should not assume the parent will not overcome any issues of non-compliance; and therefore, the district should not have cause for considering a child truant merely based on either missing data or any other resolvable issue of non-compliance.
Truancy is about attendance. It extends from ORC 3321.04, the compulsory attendance statute. It is about compelling attendance, not education; therefore, there appears to be no educational reason for pursuing truancy threats against home educators. Threats of truancy are not about the adequacy of an educational program; therefore, suggestions by districts that home educators must be “in school” until such time as their notification is reviewed and approved by superintendents are not well-reasoned or supported.
Home education notifications are reviewed to see that the required data is in place. This is a clerical, administrative procedure; a check-off list. The superintendent does not make a judgment regarding academic content, quality or adequacy. It is reviewed to see that it is provided. Therefore, none of the information should be of such import, or educational quality, that it would require a child be in attendance at a public school or other such program until such time as a superintendent reviews to see that the information is provided. This can be done while the child is home educating and while the notification is being reviewed for provision of the required data.
There is no starting date stated in the home education regulations. Long-standing, statewide practice is that most homeschoolers notify on/by Day One of their school district’s new fall term.
Further, the regulations are specific with respect to obligations of the responsibilities and obligations of the parents and the superintendents. If the regulations required a starting date, or there were penalties for not complying with such, one could believe that they would have been specifically stated. The regulations are specifically ambiguous in this regard, allowing for parental rights. Again, rights which are specifically stated and safeguarded by the home education regulations Statement of Purpose. (OAC 3301-34-02)
Home education is a legal and equal educational choice in Ohio. It is equivalent to the other 5 choices currently available. Children attending parochial school, for example, are not required to attend public school until such time as their attendance in a parochial, private, community is demonstrated. They are allowed to begin immediately. Under the equal treatment clauses of the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions, such rights must be accorded to home educators as well upon notification of their intention to home educate. Special privileges may not be accorded to only one or a few groups.
Further, pursuing parents who have chosen a legal and equal educational option in Ohio, who have notified of their intention to home educate and who have, therefore, satisfied the obligations with respect to compulsory attendance (and remembering that truancy is NOT about educational quality but attendance), would appear to be a waste of limited district resources. Diversion of manpower, time, money and focus from legitimate issues of truancy facing a school district would seem to be issues which taxpayers, citizens (which home educating parents are) should be concerned and which should perhaps be brought to the attention of the local school board.
Providing evidence that they have filed a notification of intention to home educate, and therefore have satisfied the state’s interest in knowing where a child, ages 6-18, will be, even if they do not have their excusal from compulsory attendance in hand yet, should be sufficient. Lack of such excuse during the required 14-day compliance review should not be cause for issuing truancy charges. Parents who have appropriately notified have complied with their obligations; such parental notification allows the districts to comply with their own statutory obligations.
Further, districts are often remiss in providing home educating parents who are in compliance with letters of excuse from compulsory attendance in a timely manner (within 14 calendar days) as required under the code, OAC 3301-34-03(C)(1). It is unseemly that lack of district compliance should create truancy difficulties for parents who have followed the law in this regard.
Truancy threat of home educators is a wasteful exercise; it serves neither the district’s nor the home educator’s purpose of providing an education for children.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
(1) Write a polite, firm, reasoned letter to the Superintendent. Information has been provided which may aid you as you consider what you shall say to the district in this regard. It is important for home educators to write letters to districts in areas of non-compliance. It serves the purposes of maintaining our own educational freedoms, and of educating the district with respect to THEIR compliance with the regulations. It smoothes the way for homeschoolers coming behind you. Take a stand today.
It is requested that you do NOT copy this information verbatim. Please feel free to use any of the quotes or citations in your letter, but it would be more effective if you would put your thinking into your own words. Form letters are not as effective as individually-created ones. Thank you.
(2) Send with copies to:
(a) School Board (this is critical; they are the supt’s boss and hold the purse strings; it would be important for them to know how the district is utilizing its limited resources. Are they diverting time, money, focus from legitimate district issues by requesting information from home educators which is not only NOT required, but which exceeds the regulations which are binding on the supt. and his office? They need to know how taxpayers and citizens of this district feel about the treatment of families pursuing a legal educational option in Ohio. Remember, you are not only home educators in your city, town, etc., you are taxpayers and citizens! These are your elected officials; your tax dollars pay their salaries…and the superintendent’s !)
(3) If you have notified your district, and it is beyond the 14-day requirement for the superintendent to provide you with an excusal, you should contact your district and politely request that the superintendent comply with the home education regulations, OAC 3301-34-03(C), under which the superintendent has a regulatory burden to provide the home educator, in writing, a notice of excuse from compulsory attendance, within 14 calendar days of receipt of notification of intention to home educate. This is a legal document which the superintendent’s office must provide and which homeschoolers are required to retain for their records. Ask for receipt of the excuse from compulsory attendance by return mail. (Be sure to send ALL correspondence via certified mail, return receipt requested.)
(4) Share this information with homeschoolers in your area. Be sure that they are receiving good, accurate and reliable information. Homeschoolers may find that by advising their district that they will NOT comply with requests that exceed the home education regulations, they are protecting their freedoms AND educating the district. Let’s begin by becoming educated ourselves.
Rev. 02/01 – S.M. Duncan
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