Parents threatened with truancy
State law requires homeschooling parents to file a Certificate of Enrollment with their local attendance officer by September 15 of each year. The form of the Certificate of Enrollment must be prepared by the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement in the Mississippi Department of Education. Unfortunately, as in years past, attendance officers are insisting that the Certificate of Enrollment be completed by the parent in the presence of the attendance officer and that it include information beyond what is required by state law. For example, school officials in Pontotoc County demanded that a Home School Legal Defense Association member family provide a "detailed itinerary" of the course of study for their homeschool program. Another family residing in Desoto County was asked to provide a list of subjects and grade levels for their children. Families refusing to comply with these unlawful demands have been threatened with prosecution for truancy.
The homeschool law states that the Certificate of Enrollment form must be "returned" to the school attendance officer. Thus, it is obvious that the intent of state law is that parents would complete this form and return it to the attendance officer's office at a later time. There is no provision in the law stating that parents must complete the form in the attendance officer's presence.
State law requires that the Certificate of Enrollment filed with the school attendance officer include, among other things, a "simple description of the type of education the compulsory-school-age child is receiving." Under Mississippi law, the types of education are public or nonpublic school, including a private school, church school, parochial school, and home instruction program. Thus, it appears that the "type of education" to be described in the Certificate of Enrollment is simply to indicate that the child is enrolled in a home instruction program. There is no requirement that parents provide a description of the instruction program such as a list of subjects being taught, the grade levels of the children, or a "detailed itinerary" of the program. In fact, there are no required subjects for home instruction programs in Mississippi, so parents may not be faulted for not teaching some subject offered in public school.
HSLDA is prepared to defend in court any of our member families facing truancy charges for failure to provide information not required by state law.
— Dewitt T. Black