The Home School Court Report
No. 2

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Concerns About Educational Neglect Charges

A much-publicized case of fraudulent homeschooling has ended in charges of educational neglect and has generated concern among Indiana’s thousands of homeschoolers. In December 2009, two Allen County women pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor related to educational neglect. According to news reports, the women, who were living in the same home, both pulled their children out of the public school in January 2006. The children were put back into the public school in September 2008 and January 2009 respectively.

According to court records, the children failed to show educational progress when they returned to public school and the women were not able to provide any documentation to support their claim that the children had been homeschooled.

Many people have contacted Home School Legal Defense Association, wondering about how this case might affect the status of homeschooling in Indiana.

Here’s our answer: under Indiana state law, a child of school age may attend “another school which is taught in the English language.” The Indiana Appellate Court, in State v. Peterman, held that a school is “a place where instruction is imparted to the young” and that “the number of persons, whether one or many, [do not] make a place where instruction is imparted any less or any more a school.”

Under Indiana law, parents teaching their child at home are required to maintain attendance records and provide “instruction equivalent to that given in public schools.” The state board of education does not have the authority to regulate the curriculum used or define specifically what “equivalent instruction” is; both are to be left up to parents.

If no instruction is taking place, then the state has the ability to challenge whether the child is actually attending a school that is providing instruction. As indicated by the Allen County situation, if parents are not able to document that they are providing any instruction, they can be found in violation of the law. Only parents who claim to be homeschooling but actually are not, are in jeopardy of being out of compliance.

— by Thomas J. Schmidt