June 26, 2002

New Jersey Home School Family Charged With Truancy

Parents in New Jersey may legally choose to home school their children rather than send them to public school. According to published guidelines by the New Jersey Department of Education, parents are not required to notify school officials of their intention to home school, yet the Bryant family (name changed to protect family's privacy) has been charged with truancy for failing to do so.

For the past three years, Mrs. Bryant has been home schooling her four children. On April 17, 2002, a truant officer visited her home and asked why her children were not in school. She explained that she educated her children at home. The officer demanded that she register her home school with the local school district and left.

Two days after the truant officer's visit, Mrs. Bryant notified the superintendent that she was educating her four children at home. The superintendent responded to the notice with a letter, confirming the home instruction and asking her to retain his letter for her records. His letter also requested that she notify his office in September of each year that she decides to home school.

Unbeknownst to either Mrs. Bryant or the superintendent, the truant officer and the principals from the children's schools filed a truancy complaint against her. The summons was not served until after Mrs. Bryant received the superintendent's letter.

After Mrs. Bryant received the summons, it appeared that the principals were unaware that the superintendent had received her notice and had responded in a manner indicating that he did not consider her to be in violation of New Jersey law.

The superintendent planned to drop the charges because of the apparent confusion of his subordinates. Based on Mrs. Bryant's notice of intent and his confirmation letter. He agreed that the charges should be dropped. He later decided, however, not to drop the charges, contending that Mrs. Bryant should be charged with truancy for the period of time she had been home schooling before she sent her letter of notice to him.

Home School Legal Defense Association is in the process of filing a motion to dismiss on behalf of our member family.