September 15, 2009

Change in Certificate of Enrollment Form

The Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement of the Mississippi Department of Education has developed a new form for the certificate of enrollment required to be filed with the school attendance officer for students in home instruction programs beginning with the 2009–2010 school year. Unfortunately, the new form does not conform to the requirements established by the Mississippi Legislature in the statutory law.

According to the statutory language, the certificate of enrollment should be designed to obtain only the information enumerated in the law. One of the items of the certificate of enrollment must be a “simple description of the type of education the compulsory-school-age child is receiving.” According to the Section 37-13-91 of the Mississippi Code Annotated, the type of education for school-age children may be public or nonpublic school, including a private school, church school, parochial school, or home instruction program. Thus, homeschooling parents may provide a simple description of the type of education their child is receiving by indicating on the form that it is a “home instruction program.” This is the same approach taken for completion of the certificate of enrollment for students in a private school, church school, or parochial school, none of which is required to provide any additional information regarding the curriculum or instructional program offered to its students. The new form for parents conducting home instruction programs is specifically designated for a “Home School.” It seeks a “brief description of instruction program,” apparently in an effort to obtain specific curriculum information not required by state law.

Upon being advised of the existence of the new certificate of enrollment form, HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the head of the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement, pointing out the form’s deviation from state law and requesting that it be revised. At press time, the state official had not replied to Black’s letter.

Another change in the certificate of enrollment form is an inquiry appearing at the bottom of the form to which the parent, guardian, or custodian is to answer “yes” or “no”: “The Mississippi Department of Education has permission to provide a copy of this certificate to the local school district upon request.” HSLDA joined with the Mississippi Home Educators Association in recommending that homeschoolers check the “no” block in response to this inquiry. We do not know for what purpose such information might be used by local public school officials. HSLDA’s position has always been that homeschoolers should provide no more information about their family to state officials than is required by state law.