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Tennessee

October 28, 2009
Family Challenged in McMinn County

At the beginning of this school year, a truant officer in McMinn County went to the home of a family in Calhoun insisting that they provide him with documentation indicating that their children were enrolled in school. Despite receiving assurances from the mother that her children were being instructed at home through enrollment in a church-related school, the truant officer insisted on proof of enrollment and threatened to involve social services with the family.

When the mother contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance, we advised her to obtain a verification of enrollment from the church-related school to show the truant officer upon his anticipated return. Additionally, Senior Counsel Dewitt Black wrote a letter to the principal, explaining that our member family was in full compliance with Tennessee’s compulsory attendance law by having their children attend a church-related school in the home through the school’s satellite or extension program. Black also enclosed a copy of the verification of enrollment from the church-related school in Memphis. As a result of this intervention by HSLDA, our member family encountered no further challenge to its home instruction program.

HSLDA recommends that parents maintain documentation on file in their home to verify enrollment in a church-related school, if this is the option they have chosen for complying with the compulsory attendance law. While such documentation does not have to be submitted to local public school officials as a matter of routine, it may be necessary to do so if compliance with the law is being questioned. It is preferable to resolve a challenge to the home instruction program by voluntarily providing such documentation to school officials instead of having to do so in a court setting if truancy charges are filed.