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Tennessee

October 21, 2011

Difficulty in Maury County

Even after a family in Maury County had followed the normal procedure for withdrawing their daughter from public school in order to begin homeschooling, public school officials threatened them with legal action and more.

Believing that their decision not to re-enroll their middle school daughter in public school for the 2011–2012 school year and enrolling her in a non-public school was legally sufficient, the family was surprised to begin receiving telephone calls from the school district in mid-August about their daughter’s absences. In response to these calls, the father went to the middle school office and completed withdrawal forms as requested. Thereafter, on August 25 the school district’s supervisor of attendance and discipline sent a Notice of Failure to Enroll to the parents, threatening them with truancy charges if they didn’t provide documentation that their daughter was enrolled in school. The child’s mother replied to the letter on August 29, advising the school official in writing that her daughter was enrolled in a non-public school. On September 12, this same school official mailed yet another letter to the family acknowledging their daughter’s enrollment in school but telling them that unless they provided “proof of enrollment” of their daughter in the non-public school, she would be considered a “dropout with the state.”

When the family contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance, Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the public school official and informed her that there is no requirement under Tennessee law that a parent provide public school officials with any “proof of enrollment” of a child in a non-public school. But in order to further specify their daughter’s enrollment status, Black’s letter recited that she was enrolled in A Beka Academy, a Category III non-public school approved by the Tennessee Department of Education. ( Category III schools, including their online programs, are accredited by one of six regional accrediting agencies, such as the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.) The family received no further inquiries from Maury County officials about their daughter’s enrollment in school.