Across the States
Confusing Article May Prompt False Reports
The online news site Black Hills Today recently published a misleading article that clouded the water on the state homeschool law, possibly confusing both families and officials and unintentionally encouraging bogus complaints against homeschoolers.
Entitled “South Dakota Home School Certificate Revoked: Aberdeen Family Looses [sic] Homeschool Certificate,” the article said, “Anyone, anywhere at anytime can alert the state office that schooling in a particular home might not meet state requirements . . . The state then typically asks a local authority to investigate . . .”
The article implied that as soon as a complaint is made against a family, the family can be subjected to an investigation. This is incorrect.
To protect families from harassment through false complaints, South Dakota law only permits the secretary of the department of education to investigate a situation if there is probable cause. This means the complaint must be based on more than just a suspicion or an anonymous tip. The secretary must give the family 14 days’ written notice, and can request only those records that pertain to attendance and academic progress—not “curriculum,” as the article erroneously stated (South Dakota Codified Laws 13-27-3 and 13-27-7).
Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff spoke with South Dakota Secretary of Education Rick Melmer on January 23, 2007, and reminded him of the law’s requirements concerning investigations. Melmer confirmed that he understands the law and that it is his policy to follow it.
Unfortunately, the misleading web article may spur groundless complaints against homeschooling families. HSLDA will insist that member families are protected from bogus reports to the full extent of the law.
— by Scott A. Woodruff