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June 27, 2017

Happy 17th Birthday! Now You’re a Dropout

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New York City’s Central Office of Home Schooling recently informed homeschooling families that once their students reach the age of 17 they will be treated more or less as dropouts.

Tj Schmidt TJ SCHMIDT Contact attorney for New York

According to a packet sent by the Central Office, parents of 17-year-olds who fail to contact school officials will find that the students have been “discharged” from the city’s student tracking system.

This packet immediately caused confusion among families with students set to graduate this year. It also raised concerns that the reward homeschoolers anticipate collecting for complying with New York’s onerous regulations—an official letter stating that a homeschool graduate has completed the substantial equivalent of a public high school education—would be jeopardized.

As soon as I reviewed a copy of this packet, it became clear that the Central Office was trying to apply to all homeschool students a procedure designed for students who are beyond compulsory attendance age and who are dropping out of school. New York City regulations identify these students as children age 17 and older who either have missed at least 20 days of school or are seeking to withdraw without having completed the requirements to graduate from high school.

I immediately wrote a letter to the director of the Central Office of Home Schooling and several other staff, objecting to their attempt to discharge homeschool students. I also objected to the demand that parents of 17-year-olds schedule interviews to discuss further plans for high school.

Using these dropout procedures to process homeschool students demonstrates an intent to treat them as less than what they are—students who are completing a substantially equivalent education in accordance with state law.

In the meantime we continue to write letters on behalf of all of our member families who have received the discharge letters. At a minimum, the Central Office of Home Schooling ought to provide a letter verifying the student’s compliance with the homeschool law (i.e. a letter of substantial equivalency) before discharging homeschool students.

We also would like to see these students classified as high school graduates or at least the substantial equivalent of high school graduates.

We will keep doing everything we can to fight for the recognition of homeschool graduates.