The Home School Court Report
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September / October 2003

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Error in state form to be corrected

Despite state law that says that a birth certificate or related affidavit for a child must be filed only once, line 15 of the department of education's homeschool application form ("Application for Public School Exemption Certificate") appears to require homeschool families to submit the documents every year. This line-15 error has led one school system mistakenly to pressure a family to supply information, although it was already on file from a previous year.

Home School Legal Defense Association Attorney Scott Woodruff discussed this situation with Dean Buchanan, Coordinator of Alternative Instruction Programming for the South Dakota Department of Education. Buchanan acknowledged that state law requires the birth certificate or related affidavit to be filed only once. He agreed that school systems should not pressure families for redundant information, and hoped to have the form corrected soon.

If you already submitted a request for exemption in a previous year for a particular child, and supplied the required birth certificate or related affidavit, do not respond to line 15 as written. Instead write: "See this child's initial request for excuse."

In 1998, two homeschooling families were unjustifiably prosecuted after local school systems misinterpreted the old law. HSLDA successfully defended both families. To prevent such prosecutions from happening again, the state legislature in the 2000 session made several changes to the homeschool law relating to birth certificate information.

One change clarified that parents must provide a certified copy of a birth certificate or a notarized or witnessed affidavit "with the initial request for excuse" (South Dakota Codified Laws 13-27- 3.1). Because of this, families only need to provide a birth certificate or related affidavit the first time they file a request for excuse for a particular child. Neither is the family required to resubmit the exemption request form if they subsequently move to a different school district.

Scott A. Woodruff