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A new year can be a good time for a fresh start. For many families, it’s the perfect time to begin homeschooling.
Threats of truancy, however, can quickly deter any newfound optimism.
School officials in two different school districts in Nebraska recently threatened families with truancy after the parents withdrew their children from public school in early January.
One family in Lincoln decided to give homeschooling a try because their son has special needs and the public school was simply not meeting them. But after they notified the school of their decision, they received repeated notices declaring that their son was truant and warning them of possible criminal charges.
Another new homeschooling family in Humboldt encountered the same problem after establishing a legal homeschool. The local public school principal made it clear that the family’s son would continue to be marked absent until officials received written confirmation from the State Commissioner of Education—a process that can take weeks. The principal made this demand even though the family had documented that they filed the necessary paperwork.
No Approval Needed
Why should these children be expected to attend a public school that is not meeting their needs when their parents are prepared to begin homeschooling? They shouldn’t.
According to the Nebraska Administrative Code, a child is considered enrolled in a homeschool as soon as his parents file the required paperwork. The child’s enrollment is subject to continued compliance with the requirements for exempt home schools.
Nebraska statutory law does not give local schools or the Commissioner of Education discretionary authority to withhold approval of homeschools. Homeschool programs operate as “exempt schools” that are, as their name suggests, specifically exempt from state accreditation and approval requirements. Parents must provide certain forms to the Commissioner—including the names of students and instructors, curriculum, and a school calendar—but these are for informational purposes, not discretionary approval.
I wrote officials at both schools to clarify Nebraska homeschool law and explain that the students are enrolled in a home school. They are not truant.
One of the school principals quickly responded, agreeing with my assertion and expressing support for the family. The other did not respond.
It’s important to note that threats like the ones issued by these officials are often not malicious, but rather they are generated by a misunderstanding of the homeschool law or by bureaucratic policies that do not provide sufficient flexibility.
Neither family has reported any further difficulty with the school officials. I wish them the very best in their new homeschool endeavor!
If you’re homeschooling and are looking for support, consider joining HSLDA and taking advantage of our education consultants’ practical expertise in addition to the peace of mind our legal services provide. We’re here to help you homeschool!