October 22, 2010

Superintendent Threatens Family who Refuses to File “Notice of Intent”

A Northwest Kansas public school superintendent wrote to HSLDA members Peter and Beth Rist (name changed to protect their privacy):

“It is our understanding that you are homeschooling your children or child. Please verify your intent to home school...by sending a letter to the Superintendent’s office indicating the names and ages of the child or children....”

HSLDA worked to prepare a letter on the family’s behalf, explaining that no other Kansas school district asks private school students to file a notice of intent, and asking the superintendent whether she knew of any law requiring it. The letter also confirmed that the family’s small private school was registered in compliance with state law. (Homeschools operate as private schools in Kansas.)

The superintendent replied:

“If your clients would prefer for us to contact the county officials, that is within their right and we will do so. If not, we ask for a simple letter of intent to homeschool their child(ren). Please advise me on the course of action that they prefer.”

HSLDA worked to prepare a reply. The reply reminded the superintendent that the family’s school was registered with the state, and that she had no enforcement duty unless she had evidence the children were attending no school at all. It explained that a notice of intent could not possibly make a child any more—or less—truant under Kansas law.

HSLDA’s reply mentioned that ethical imperatives require that prosecution against a family only be initiated when there is evidence (“probable cause”) that they have violated the law—which was not present in this case. Finally, our letter pointed out that the Kansas legislature had recently enacted a law (H.B. 2197, 2008–9 legislature) giving homeschoolers by-right admission to Kansas Board of Regents schools—a powerful display of support for homeschooling.

The superintendent never responded. And she never carried out her threat against the family.