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July 26, 2005

Confusion Reigns in Gilroy

There have been a series of articles in the Gilroy Dispatch regarding homeschooling which has created legitimate concern for homeschoolers in Santa Clara County where the Gilroy Unified School District (GUSD) is located.

It started with a pronouncement from the attendance officer of GUSD that the school district has the authority to approve the right to establish a small private school in California. Small private schools are often begun by homeschoolers.

He further asserted that in order to approve the school, the administrator of the school would have to notify the school district of their intent to start a private school. HSLDA, through Michael Smith, responded twice in the Gilroy Dispatch to the incorrect assertions on the part of the attendance officer. Homeschoolers establishing private schools are subject to the same requirements under the Education Code in California as a regular brick-and-mortar private school. Therefore, there is no authority to pre-approve or disapprove the establishment of a private school by a local school district or any other governmental agency in California.

Private schools are required to file a private school affidavit once a year between October 1 and October 15. This filing requirement is completed by downloading the affidavit from the California Department of Education (CDE) website, signing the copy by the school administrator and forwarding it to the CDE.

Just when we thought we had this matter resolved in Gilroy, on July 20, 2005, in the Gilroy Dispatch another article on homeschooling entitled, "Homeschool on the Rise," by Kristen Munson was printed. In the article, Pam Slater of the CDE said "You can file a private school affidavit on-line with the CDE, but you must file with the district too."

We contacted the legal counsel at the CDE that supervises the private school sector and he assured us that this is not a new requirement of the CDE and there must have been a misunderstanding between the reporter and Pam Slater. Additionally, we directed another letter to the Gilroy Dispatch informing them that there was misinformation in the article regarding the alleged filing requirement with the local school district.

Please be reassured that the law has not changed in California, nor has the practice of the CDE regarding the filing of affidavits. However, members need to realize that the CDE has informed the local school districts that it is their obligation to enforce truancy and that local school districts can determine how they will enforce the truancy laws.

It's not unreasonable to believe that there will be other school districts in addition to the GUSD that will attempt to use creative ways to thwart homeschooling in the name of preventing truancy.

HSLDA needs to continue to address any misinformation regarding homeschooling in California newspapers. If you see misinformation, or you have questions about its accuracy, please contact our office as soon as possible.