The Home School Court Report
No. 5

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Homeschoolers’ Data Mistakenly Included in Public System

During the 2005-06 school year, the Canastota, Lansing, Oppenheim-Ephratah, and West Seneca school districts unexpectedly sent data or enrollment forms to resident homeschooling families.* Each school district’s form requested basic demographic information about homeschool students, but no district requested exactly the same information or used the same form.

However, the reason behind the request was always the same. The families were told that their children&squo;s information was needed to comply with a new data reporting system developed by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

When several Home School Legal Defense Association member families contacted us about the forms, they found out that the information requested was not legally required.

What each of the school districts misunderstood was that the statewide student data system was designed by the NYSED to collect and maintain public school student records only. The main goals of this system are to allow the public schools to meet state and federal accountability requirements as well as improve curriculum, instruction, and student performance. Homeschool records have no place in this data system.

In order to organize the records, each public school student is assigned a unique statewide identification number based on demographic data. This is why these districts had requested demographic information from the homeschool families.

HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt contacted each of the school districts involved and explained that none of the information was required under 100.10 of the Commissioner's Regulations. Schmidt cited several documents and memos from the NYSED explaining the statewide student data system and pointed out that all of them affirmed that the system was for public school students.

Not only did the districts drop their requests for this information, but HSLDA was also successful in having most of the erroneously collected information destroyed or removed from the schools’ files.

— by Thomas J. Schmidt

* See "A plethora of forms" on page 24.