July 30, 2004

Mounds View School District Continues Unlawful Demands

Minnesota law authorizes superintendents to request a home visit from homeschoolers, but the law provides an alternative for families who value their privacy. Parents can provide a copy of the documentation required by Minnesota law in lieu of a home visit. This law is designed to deal with specific cases where a family has been accused of failing to provide an education for their children. If they really are educating their children, and are keeping the records required by law, they can "prove their innocence" with a minimum of trouble. While Minnesota law is far from perfect, this particular provision causes little trouble when it is properly used.

Unfortunately, not all school districts understand the purpose of this law. Mounds View Public Schools, in particular, continues to demand that every homeschool family turn over every piece of paper referred to in Minnesota Statutes. Thus, instead of treating the documentation requirements of Minnesota law as a private school record which is to be disclosed only upon genuine need, Mounds View wants to collect every private school's paperwork in their public school files. Despite years of protests and patient refusals, Mounds View has yet to change its position. To be fair to Mounds View, a number of other school districts had followed similar policies until it became apparent that homeschool records were not protected by Minnesota privacy laws. The discovery that the file cabinets full of homeschool paperwork were "public records" caused some positive changes in the way many Minnesota school districts handles homeschool records. The majority of school districts that had been demanding homeschool records in every case dropped those demands, saving time, effort, and expense for all concerned. Mounds View is a holdover to an older way of doing things.

Despite these positive changes around the state, Carole Nielsen, the homeschool liaison for Mounds View Public Schools, continues to send letters to families which have stood upon their rights in her district. Her letter to families states, "Your file, including written curriculum documentation refusal, is complete for the 2003-04 school year." [Emphasis supplied.] The wording of this letter both betrays her negative attitude towards freedom-loving families and her recognition that Minnesota law does not require the production of these documents. Under the law, a file is "complete" if the family provides the notice of intent in a timely fashion. The fact that Mounds View families can "refuse" to comply with school demands and yet "complete" their file speaks volumes.

HSLDA salutes the courageous families from Mounds View who continue to assert their rights under Minnesota's homeschool statute. Whether their school district likes it or not, they are the ones who are obeying Minnesota law. We hope that Mounds View school officials will join them.