Rapid City backs down
South Dakota law provides no deadline for notifying a school district of intent to educate a child at home, but the Rapid City School Board decided not to accept any new applications after its agenda was written up for a school board meeting three weeks away. Even though the school board met on August 26, parents who filed their paperwork after August 15 were shocked to hear that they "must" put their children back in public school until the next board meeting on September 9.
When these families contacted Home School Legal Defense Association, we advised them to go ahead and teach their children at home. South Dakota law requires the school board to excuse a child from attendance once the parents provide a notice of alternative instruction. The law specifically states,
Upon receipt of an application from the parent or guardian of the child . . . school boards of all school districts shall excuse a child from school attendance.
HSLDA takes the position that the child has a right to stay out of school as soon as the school receives the paperwork. Rapid City took the position that the child has to stay in school until the board actually votes on the issue.
HSLDA Attorney Scott Somerville called Dr. Patricia Peel at the Rapid City Homeschool Office, reviewed the relevant statutes, and explained that HSLDA member families would not put their children into the public schools while they waited for the school board to act. If the school district insisted on prosecuting, he explained, the families would defend their right to teach their children at home on the basis of the clear statutory language. Although this matter has never been litigated in South Dakota, there are precedents in other states. In every case, courts have instructed school boards to just approve the paperwork rather than filing frivolous charges.
Dr. Peel agreed to change the district's policy. Rather than treating homeschooled students as truant until the school board meeting, she is now willing to excuse any absences until the board exempts them from attendance.
— Scott W. Somerville