Across the States
Authority of the School District
During the first three months of each new year, Home School Legal Defense Association typically receives numerous applications for membership from families having difficulties in the public school and deciding mid-term to withdraw their children and start homeschooling. These families may either establish their own private school by filing the private school affidavit* or enroll in a private school independent study program (ISP). However, in some cases, uninformed families simply homeschool without complying with one of the above exemptions to the compulsory attendance law.
Often, a family’s decision to withdraw their child from the public school is accompanied by pressure from school officials, who sometimes even threaten truancy charges or a School Attendance Review Board (SARB) hearing. If the student does indeed have unexcused absences from the public school, the public school may pursue a SARB hearing with the family. However, if the family has since established a private school or enrolled their child in an ISP, most officials will be satisfied and not pursue truancy proceedings.
What authority does the public school have over private schools and students enrolled in them? According to Education Code § 48222, the authority of the school district to investigate truancy of private school students ends once the district verifies that the private school affidavit has been properly filed and that the child has been enrolled in the school. To verify the filing of the R-4 affidavit, a school district simply contacts the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Equally as simple, the verification of attendance at the private school is done by contacting the administrator of the private school and receiving confirmation that the child is, in fact, enrolled and receiving instruction.
Education Code § 48222 states that the verification of the filing of the private school affidavit does not constitute an approval or recognition by the state of any private school or course. It is HSLDA’s position that there is no lawful authority for the public school to enter a home or to ask to see courses of study, curriculum, teacher qualifications, and attendance records. If you are contacted by a public school official, it is acceptable to show him your private school affidavit or give the name and contact information for your ISP. However, if the official makes any requests for further information, HSLDA members should obtain the official’s business card, indicate that they need to review those questions with their attorney, and contact HSLDA.
It is the public school official’s responsibility to verify school attendance, not to evaluate the private school program.
— by J. Michael Smith
* See “A plethora of forms”