The Home School Court Report
No. 6

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School at Odds With Homeschool Privacy Policy

On July 21, 2006, Rapid City’s homeschool secretary sent homeschooling families a troubling letter that was at odds with the landmark privacy policy Home School Legal Defense Association, local homeschooling families, and the school board hammered out in 2004.

The letter urged families to return two forms “as soon as possible”—a “Homeschool Temporary Waiver of Confidentiality” form and an “Alternative School Program Partial Waiver of Confidentiality.”* The only explanation the letter provided as to why families were suddenly being urged to sign these forms was that it was “very important.”

HSLDA Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff called the homeschool secretary to ask if families’ privacy would be jeopardized if they simply ignored the forms, but the secretary could not provide an answer.

The privacy policy adopted in June of 2004 says that a specified official may “provide a form to a family . . . asking them if they wish to receive registration information” from the local school. The policy also clearly states that families are free to ignore the form. Paragraph VI says, “If the family does not complete the form . . . there shall be no waiver and the information shall not be released.” This policy requires that families’ privacy be protected even if they choose to ignore the “partial waiver” form.

While Rapid City’s privacy policy allows families to temporarily waive confidentiality if they wish, it only applies in very narrow circumstances—if there is an “emergency” or if specified officials are not available. The “temporary waiver” form included in the July letter would be suitable for use in one of these rare instances. There is no justification, however, for sending a blanket mailing to all homeschooling families and asking for signatures.

HSLDA will take steps to ensure that the school administration understands that homeschooling families’ privacy must be protected even if they disregard the “partial waiver” form, and we will strongly discourage the school from sending “temporary waiver” forms out wholesale again.

The right to privacy is the right to be left alone, and only active citizens can prevent intrusions on this freedom. With the help of vigilant homeschooling families, we will defend the important privacy protections won in 2004.

— by Scott A. Woodruff

* See “A plethora of forms”