October 5, 2005

Michigan District Tells Homeschooling Family: Register or Face Possible Truancy Charges

A family in Zeeland started the school year with their children in public school, but soon realized that they would need to find an alternative. They immediately started homeschooling their second daughter and planned to remove their oldest at a later date.

After starting to homeschool, the family received a somewhat confusing letter from the public school where the daughter had attended. The letter stated that, to be in compliance with the law, the family had to register or face possible truancy charges.

In Michigan, homeschoolers have two options under the law. First, they can establish a homeschool program in which the only requirements are that certain subjects must be taught. No registration is required.

The other option is for a homeschool to operate as a non-public school. With the non-public school option the family must have a certified teacher (or claim a religious exemption), submit a statement of enrollment, and maintain records.

The letter from the school failed to clearly state that the family could operate as a homeschool program and thereby avoid the requirements to become state-approved through the non-public school option. The letter indicated that if the family failed to become state approved they would have to return the child to public school immediately. In addition, the school said that it is "important to declare your home schooling status to your public school district . . . to avoid the possibility of your child being considered truant from school."

HSLDA senior counsel Chris Klicka wrote to the school district and explained the rights of homeschoolers in Michigan. Homeschoolers do not need to register with the school district, do not need to become state approved, and that the burden to prove that families are not homeschooling is upon that school district, not the homeschoolers.

Fortunately, the school district backed down and the family has been able to start homeschooling their oldest daughter.