November 15, 2010
Genesee ISD Wants Additional Reporting

According to the Genessee Intermediate School District (ISD), parents or legal guardians who educate their children at home and wish to be exempted from the compulsory school attendance requirements should complete and file a Home School Report Form with the ISD’s Attendance Liaison Officer. This form requires parents to indicate that they are conducting a home education program, even though the parents may instead be operating a nonpublic school or some combination of these two options as is recognized by Michigan law. Additionally, the form seeks the names, birthdates, and grade levels of the children being taught at home, as well as the family’s telephone number.

After a Home School Legal Defense Association member family contacted us for guidance about how to handle the ISD’s insistence that they submit the form at the beginning of the school year, HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the school official informing her that completion of this form is not required by state law. Afterwards, the family received no further inquiries about the form.

When state officials contact homeschooling families and inquire about their compliance with the compulsory attendance law, HSLDA recommends that parents respond appropriately to avoid further investigation or unnecessary legal action. Parents should reply to such inquiries by sending the school official a letter stating that the child in question is being taught in a home education program, a nonpublic school, or a combination of both of these. The objection to the inquiry by Genesee ISD is that it seeks to have all homeschooling parents complete the Home School Report Form as a matter of routine, without regard to whether there is any question of their compliance with the compulsory attendance law. There is simply no legal authority for this practice. Thus, Black’s letter to the Genesee ISD official contained no information about what homeschooling option our member family had chosen.

Section 388.555 of Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated authorizes the superintendent of public instruction to request and obtain certain information from nonpublic schools, including homeschools operating as nonpublic schools. This information includes enrollment of pupils, courses of study, and the qualifications of the school’s teachers. The Michigan Department of Education presently uses a form entitled, Nonpublic School Membership Report, also known as Form SM-4325, to request information about nonpublic schools based on the authority of Section 388.555. Typically, once the Department of Education receives information that the school exists, a Form SM-4325 is sent to the school each year requesting all of the information authorized by section 388.555, in addition to other unauthorized information. The information sought in the form but not authorized by the statute includes the following: how many special education students and part-time students are in the school and the school’s telephone number. HSLDA recommends that homeschooling families operating as nonpublic schools provide the information on this form required by state law if requested to do so. This is the only form in use that has any legal basis.

HSLDA member families encountering difficulties with school officials about completion of forms or information sought about their homeschooling should contact us for assistance.