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South Dakota

February 8, 2007
Bogus Homeschool Complaints may Jump after Misleading Article

Black Hills Today recently published a misleading online article that misconstrued homeschool law and may have confused families and officials and unintentionally encouraged bogus complaints against homeschool families.

The article said: “Anyone, anywhere at anytime can alert the state office that schooling in a particular home might not meet state requirements. ... The state then typically asks a local authority to investigate...” The article was entitled: “South Dakota Home School Certificate Revoked: Aberdeen Family Loses Homeschool Certificate.”

The article implied that as soon as there is a complaint against a family, they can be subjected to an investigation. This is wrong.

To protect families from harassment through bogus complaints, South Dakota law only permits the secretary of the Department of Education to investigate if there is probable cause. This means the complaint must be based on more than just a suspicion or anonymous tip. The secretary must give the family 14 days written notice. Finally, the only records the secretary can request are those pertaining to attendance and academic progress, not “curriculum,” as the article erroneously stated (South Dakota Codified Laws 13-27-3 and 13-27-7).

Home School Legal Defense Association attorney Scott Woodruff spoke with Secretary Rick Melmer on January 23. Woodruff reminded him of what the law requires concerning investigations, and he confirmed that he understands the law and it is his policy to follow it.

Unfortunately, the misleading Black Hills Today article may spur groundless complaints against homeschool families. HSLDA will insist that member families are protected from bogus reports to the full extent of the law.

 Other Resources

Black Hills Today article: “South Dakota Home School Certificate Revoked: Aberdeen Family Looses [sic] Homeschool Certificate.”

Black Hill Today article: “Homeschool Story Receives International Attention”

South Dakota—A Legal Analysis ( requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)