Families encounter harassment
The 2002-2003 school year started off with unwelcome school harassment for two Tennessee homeschooling families. These families, both members of Home School Legal Defense Association, received threatening letters from school officials bent on requiring the families to provide more information than is required by law.
One of these families received a letter from the Supervisor of Attendance for the Lincoln County School Board, complaining that the board had received no official notice that the member family planned to conduct a homeschool for their children during the 2002-2003 school year. The letter went on to threaten legal action unless the family's children were "cleared" by September 1, 2002.
HSLDA Attorney Dewitt Black responded to the official, explaining that homeschools in Tennessee are governed by the provisions of § 49-6-3050 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. Parents conducting a homeschool which is not associated with a church-related school must notify the local school district of their intent to conduct the homeschool by August 1 of each school year. For parents conducting a homeschool which is associated with a church-related school, there is no provision whatsoever in the homeschool statute requiring that any notice be given to the local school district. Thus, the August 1 deadline does not apply to these students. However, for those students whose homeschool is associated with a church-related school and who are in grades 9 through 12, parents must register them with the local school district. There is no deadline for this registration, although we believe it is contemplated that this registration will take place on or about the time the parent begins to conduct the homeschool each year.
Parents also have the option of having their children attend a church-related school. This is not homeschooling, because the church-related school is not being conducted by parents or legal guardians. This school is being operated by a denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization as required by § 49-50-801. Under this option, there is no need for parents to comply with any of the homeschool provisions of § 49-6-3050 such as notice, registration, or testing through the public school. Our member family had utilized this option and thus had no responsibility to notify or register with their local school board.
A similar problem was experienced by an HSLDA member family residing in Sevier County. They had notified the school district of their intent to conduct a homeschool but were told by the local school superintendent to submit their daughter's Social Security number, a copy of her birth certificate, and registration papers the district had provided. This family's homeschool was not associated with a church-related school, and their daughter was entering the first grade. Attorney Black wrote to the superintendent and explained that § 49-6-3050 of the Tennessee Code does not require parents to submit a birth certificate or Social Security number for a homeschool student. Neither does a child in the first grade have to be registered with the public school. The school district's attorney responded to Attorney Black's letter, conceding that the family had fulfilled all requirements of Tennessee law related to their daughter's education.
-- Dewitt T. Black