September 6, 2002
Minnesota Homeschool Data is "Public"

The Home School Legal Defense Association wrote every school district in Minnesota asking them to review their privacy policy for home schoolers. A significant number of districts have responded. Some say, "Here is our policy," with a copy enclosed even though the policy in no way addresses the question of homeschool privacy. Others say, "We had no policy, but we do protect home school privacy." A number of districts seem painfully confused by the entire subject.

One school district retained an attorney to research the question and respond. The attorney who responded was Jill Coyle, for Independent School District 196, in Rosemount, Minnesota. Attorney Coyle writes:

After reading your letter I obtained and reviewed a copy of Advisory Opinion 00-052. I also received state and federal law regarding the protection of educational records. My review indicates that data regarding home school students is not protected by these laws because a homeschool student does not meet the definition of a "student" found in Minn. Stat. 13.32, 20 U.S.C. 1232(g)(a)(6) and 34 C.F.R. 99.3. For this reason the data is necessarily public (unprotected) pursuant to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, which provides that all government data is public unless otherwise protected by law. See, e.g., Minn. Stat. 13.01, Subd. 3. Please note that this conclusion is determined by state law and not school district policy.

Attorney Coyle has identified the problem that led us to write the letter to Minnesota school districts. While no one apparently wants to release homeschool information, there does appear to be a significant loophole in existing law.

We encourage all Minnesota member families to use HSLDA's revised Minnesota forms, available on our web site. Our explicit assertion of homeschool privacy in these forms is the best short-term solution to this problem. It is clear that we will need to amend Minnesota law to solve the problem permanently.