The Home School Court Report
No. 4

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School District Exceeds Authority

At the beginning of the 2009–10 school year, Home School Legal Defense Association assisted a member family who received an ominous letter from an administrative official at Manchester Public Schools. The letter to the parent stated that its purpose was to “remind you of the requirement to reapply if you intend to continue to apply for permission to home school your child. This request was granted in the past and is only provided for one school year.” Additionally, the official’s letter imposed a deadline of August 26 for submitting the notice of intent to conduct home instruction.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black responded to the school district on behalf of our member family and provided information on the legal requirements for conducting home instruction in Connecticut. Black’s letter stated that § 10-184 of Connecticut General Statutes Annotated requires a parent to send a school-age child to public school unless the parent “ . . . is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.” A parent choosing an educational option for a child other than public school is not required by this statute to take the initiative to show public school officials that the child is receiving equivalent instruction. Instead, the parent must be able to show that the child is receiving equivalent instruction in defense of any court proceeding in which the sufficiency of the instruction is being challenged. But any such court proceedings should not be initiated unless there is credible evidence that the parent is failing to provide equivalent instruction. The mere fact that a child is not enrolled in public school does not indicate that the child is not receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.

Nearly 20 years ago, on November 7, 1990, the Connecticut State Board of Education adopted a policy containing suggested procedures for home instruction. Since that time, the Connecticut State Department of Education has deemed compliance with these suggested procedures as satisfying the equivalency requirements of § 10-184. But these guidelines are not law, so parents may not be compelled to comply with them. Parents may decide to comply with the law by being able to show that their child is “elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction” under § 10-184. Black pointed out in his letter that, in any event, parents electing to provide home instruction for their children under the suggested procedures do not seek “permission” from public school officials to do so. They simply notify the public school officials of the educational choice they have made for their child.

Regarding the school official’s effort to impose a deadline of August 26 for submitting the notice of intent, the suggested procedures state that the notice of intent is to be filed with the local superintendent within 10 days of the start of the home instruction program. Thus, local school districts are not authorized to create some other deadline for submitting the notice of intent.

HSLDA strongly recommends that home educators in Connecticut comply with the suggested procedures. This eliminates any question about meeting the requirement that “the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.” This becomes especially important if the family’s right to homeschool is challenged in a court proceeding.

The family has heard nothing further from the district and has been able to continue homeschooling their children.

— by Dewitt T. Black