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No. 4

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District to Destroy Personal Information

The superintendent of the West Windsor-Plainsboro school system recently sent a letter to homeschooling families telling them they “must” submit certain personal information, including their children’s country of birth, language spoken at home, and race.

The letter said the state of New Jersey was seeking this information. There is no law, however, that requires homeschooling families to submit this information to either local or state officials.

Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Scott Woodruff called the superintendent, as well as the assistant superintendent for pupil services, left a message explaining that their demand for information was improper, and asked that they call him back so they could resolve the matter.

The assistant superintendent quickly returned Woodruff’s call. He immediately acknowledged that homeschooling families are not required to provide the information the school system was pursuing. He also acknowledged that the state of New Jersey was not asking the school system to collect this information from homeschooling families. He agreed to destroy all data homeschooling families had submitted based on the school system’s erroneous letter.

The unauthorized request for personal information seemed to be the result of simple misunderstanding, and not an attempt to create a new policy or purposely inconvenience families.

HSLDA helps protect your right to privacy. When trying to obtain personal information from families in other situations, officials have often asked Woodruff, “What are your clients trying to hide?”

This deceptive ploy tries to turn the very reasonable desire to protect one’s privacy into an absurd accusation of holding some guilty secret. Woodruff’s favorite reply to these officials, before he explains the constitutional basis for the right of privacy, is: “Do you have curtains on your windows at home? What are you trying to hide?” The same officials who try to manipulate families into surrendering their privacy have no intention of surrendering their own.

We appreciate West Windsor-Plainsboro promptly acknowledging that families have no duty to send the personal information they requested.

— by J. Michael Smith