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Compulsory Attendance Age Dispute

Officials from Spring Grove Area School District recently demanded that a Home School Legal Defense Association member family either enroll their daughter in public school or file an affidavit to commence home instruction. The problem? The family’s daughter is only 7 years old and not yet required to be formally educated in accordance with Pennsylvania law.

According to 13-1326 of Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated, the compulsory school age of a child is “the period of a child’s life from the time the child’s parents elect to have the child enter school, which shall not be later than at the age of eight (8) years, until the age of seventeen (17) years.” Further, according to 11.13 of the Pennsylvania Administrative Code, a child who enters school before age 8 is not subject to the compulsory attendance requirements unless the child has enrolled at above the kindergarten level. Consistent with these laws is the policy of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, as stated on the Frequently Asked Questions page in the home education section of its website, about when a home education program must begin for a child who is 8 years old:

If your child turns eight before or during the first two weeks of the annual school term, or within the first two weeks of the second semester, if the school district in which you reside promotes students semi-annually, the affidavit needs to be filed by the child’s birth date. If the child turns 8 during the school term, the affidavit should be filed prior to the beginning of the next school year. (24 P.S. 13-1304-admission of beginners). If the child has been enrolled in any school in grade 1 or above, you must file an affidavit whenever you begin homeschooling regardless of the child's age. (24 P.S. 13-1326)

Although the daughter had previously attended a kindergarten program, she was never in a higher grade in public school and was now homeschooled by her parents. When the family made the assistant superintendent aware of state law and the position of the department of education, they were told, “This is just the way we do things here.”

After the family contacted HSLDA, senior counsel Dewitt Black wrote the school district to explain that the child was not subject to the provisions of state law and that she would be taught informally at home until age 8. He also explained to the school officials that local school districts are without any authority to develop policies or procedures which add to or contradict the provisions of state law. The school district has made no further attempts to impose its unlawful policy on this family.

— by Dewitt T. Black