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March 7, 2017

“Home School Check. Please Give Us a Call.”

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In one school district, officials are showing up unannounced at the front doors of homeschooling families, insisting they are only there to help. But it’s the kind of help that homeschooling parents could do without, and it violates a long-standing statewide agreement meant to respect families’ constitutional right to privacy.

Schmidt Tj Schmidt Contact attorney for Kentucky

Just last month, several families in the Paris Independent School District reported being visited by public school officials. If no one was at home, the visit was marked by a doorhanger. One read, “Home school check. Please give us a call.” It was signed by the principal of the local elementary school.

One homeschooling parent commented on the Kentucky Homeschooling Facebook page that it is “disturbing that [Paris Independent Schools] have a supply of pre-printed doorhangers ready for when they make unannounced visits to your home.”

Two school officials who visited parent Jenny Griffith at her home said the district intends to visit every homeschool family three times this year. As part of their plan to help families, the school officials asked about attendance records and curriculum. Before leaving, one official asked Jenny about meeting her child.

“I got the impression that district staff could become more difficult if I didn't cooperate in answering their questions or bring out my child to meet them,” Jenny reported. “I tried to handle the situation as civilly as possible, without adding any threat to them. I have since renewed my membership with HSLDA!”

Privacy at Risk

Our members should be aware, however, that this sort of intrusive inquiry is not supported by law.

Under Kentucky law, a homeschool program operates as a private school. While private schools are required to keep attendance and scholarship records (i.e. report cards) in the same manner as the local public school, homeschooling parents do not need to open their homes and present these documents simply because a school official comes knocking.

Families who homeschool are exercising their right to direct the education of their children. Because this is a fundamental right, an agreement was reached over 20 years ago between the statewide homeschool organizations, including Christian Home Educators of Kentucky (CHEK), and the Kentucky Directors of Pupil Personnel.

This agreement, commonly known as the Best Practices Document, makes it clear that any parents who notify their district within two weeks of the beginning of school that they are teaching their children in their home are presumed to be operating a bona fide private school. Unless school officials receive some report or have some evidence that the parents are not educating their children, no further inquiry should be made.

The policy is somewhat different for parents who begin homeschooling their children in the middle of the school year. In these cases, families do occasionally receive a visit from their local school officials—like some homeschooling parents who recently began teaching their children in Scott County and Lee County. These families received visits and/or a doorhanger requesting a call back. Most of these school officials wanted to see the children’s curriculum and work samples.

Cindy West, a local CHEK representative and veteran homeschooling mom in Bourbon County, and I have contacted the Paris Independent School District objecting to the home visits of homeschooling parents who are legally operating their private school in compliance with state law. We expect the district to halt its plan to conduct these visits throughout the school year but will be continuing to monitor the situation.

We urge homeschooling families who are visited by school officials to contact us for assistance.

In my opinion, this situation also points out the importance of being part of a local homeschool organization like CHEK. In fact, members of certain homeschool groups qualify for a discount when they join or renew with HSLDA.