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Are your home school records safe?

Minnesota law permits school superintendents to request an annual visit to a home school, which families can avoid by showing the school officials their home school documentation. Some districts take this authority to the limit, and routinely ask every family for all their documentation every year. While this practice is not technically illegal, it has always been troubling to most freedom-loving home schoolers.

A recent development has cast grave new doubts on this practice. Home School Legal Defense Association has been informed that many Minnesota school districts treat home school records as "public information" that must be disclosed to the public upon request. For example, the Wayzata Public Schools (ISD 284) expressly state in their Student Records Regulations that the schools may disclose home school and nonpublic school student records. It would be a serious breach of privacy to let the school hand out the names and addresses of home schoolers, but it would be intolerable to allow the school district to reveal all the private educational information that home schoolers are required to keep on file by law.

In light of this privacy concern, we are advising our member families not to give their school district copies of any educational records other than those required for the notice of intent. Besides the preliminary information such as name and address, the notice of intent (or Compulsory Instruction Report as it is referred to in Minnesota) should include information on immunizations, instructor qualifications, an annual instructional calendar, and the proposed assessment exam. Quarterly report cards are required only if the sole instructor qualification is that of being a parent. In HSLDA's opinion, this is already far too much information to release to the public. We must not allow even more personal information to enter the public domain.

If you live in a district that asks every home school family for all their educational records every year, or know someone who does, please contact Sean Sangree, HSLDA's legal assistant for Minnesota. If home schoolers get organized now, we may be able to turn this privacy problem into a significant step forward in at least some school districts. In the long term, however, we cannot rest until all home school information is protected.

Scott W. Somerville