Across the States
Family Defended against Both District and State
When the Daltons (name changed to protect privacy) decided to withdraw their daughter Emily, who had an individualized education plan, from public school to educate her at home, they filed a notice of enrollment as required by Vermont’s homeschool law. The very next day, an abrasive and blustery truant officer showed up on the doorstep of this Home School Legal Defense Association member family’s home.
The truant officer demanded that the Daltons keep their daughter in the public school until the Vermont Department of Education (DOE) “approved” the family’s homeschool. He threatened truancy charges and a $1,000 fine if Emily was not in school the next day.
The family called HSLDA and asked whether they could continue homeschooling or had to send their daughter back to school. HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly informed them that, contrary to the officer’s misperception, Vermont parents simply file a notice of enrollment and do not need to seek “approval” from the Vermont Department of Education. Donnelly immediately faxed a two-page letter to the public school superintendent explaining that the family was in compliance with the law. He also cautioned the district against infringing upon the family’s fundamental right to educate their children at home.
Although the letter of explanation was sufficient to deal with the district, the matter didn’t stop there. After the Daltons filed a notice of enrollment with the DOE, the state commissioner of education called a hearing to challenge the parents’ right to homeschool. Donnelly represented the Daltons in the hearing process, and successfully negotiated a settlement to preserve the family’s right to homeschool.
Situations like this are, unfortunately, more common when families withdraw children from public school during the school year. Misinformed and misguided public education officials often require a clear explanation of the law and a firm response. In this case, formal legal representation was also needed. HSLDA would like to reassure our member families that no matter how their right to homeschool is challenged, we will defend that right until the situation is resolved.
— by Michael P. Donnelly