September 25, 2001

New York School Districts Increase Pressure

Although New York State's home school law is among the most stringent in the country, Home School Legal Defense Association is seeing numerous incidents where local districts are placing unauthorized requirements on member families.

  • Rochester City School District appears to be causing significant trouble by attempting to impose local policy instead of following state law. Under New York law, families submit a curriculum description to the local superintendent, who reviews it to ensure that all required subjects are being taught. However, Rochester has set up a panel of five reviewers, one per required subject, to confirm that the curriculum contains the same course content as the public schools. If any one of the five reviewers disapproves, Rochester tells the family that they cannot home school.

    One HSLDA member family submitted all legally required information to Rochester but a month later received a letter from the district informing them that their home school program was not in compliance with the law, because their curriculum did not follow the public school's content. Not only was Rochester's response almost three weeks late, but home schooling families are free to choose curriculum not based on the public school.

  • In Community School District 27 in Ozone Park, the attendance coordinator sent a letter to an HSLDA member family explaining the rules for home schooling in New York. Unfortunately, nearly all the information was incorrect. For instance, the letter erroneously claimed that parents must receive the superintendent's approval before beginning to instruct a child at home, but New York law contains no such requirement.

    The letter went on to ask for much more information than the law requires, including a calendar for the year; a description of the background, experience and credentials of the teacher; and a plan for evaluation of academic progress. The school district also tried to force the children to take New York state tests, even though the state education department clearly says that they are not required for home school students.

  • A member family in West Babylon Schools received a similar letter, asserting the district's right to require "suitable" teaching materials and a "suitable" schedule. The district's policy failed to recognize any assessment method except standardized testing, even though state law allows several options at different grade levels. In addition, the school district had not complied with the law by sending an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) form to the family.

  • Community School District 25 in Flushing, tried to require a member family to complete a "Health Insurance Information Survey" and a registration form, although the law requires neither.

In each of these districts, HSLDA is defending our member families from extra burdens being placed on them. Since school districts are bound by the requirements of the home school law, we strongly believe that they should be held accountable when they overstep the law.