Looking to withdraw your children from the public school system? You may face procedural hoops and obstacles that aren’t required by law – and ongoing challenges even after the withdrawal.
This warning comes from several homeschool nonprofits, including the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The association protects educational freedoms for a growing number of homeschool families after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Education authorities at both the state and county level have proven that they cannot be trusted to ‘oversee’ homeschooling,” wrote HSLDA attorney Michael Donnelly in a recent article.
Donnelly wrote a cease-and-desist letter upon learning that West Virginia’s state board of education was unlawfully collecting information on homeschooled students, even after they had left the district.
“This is a serious breach of trust and demonstrates why West Virginia homeschoolers must persuade legislators to protect our children from overreaching state authorities,” Donnelly wrote.
Procedural challenges across states and counties
Because homeschool laws vary by state, confusion often arises over legal requirements and procedures that differ based on residency and other factors.
Government officials can threaten punitive action if families don’t submit specific documents to them. However, in many cases these documents aren’t required by law.
In New York, for example, two families who had moved to different states received threatening letters from the school district, saying they had to fill out more paperwork.
“What surprised these HSLDA member families is that the confusion and misapplication of the law followed them even after leaving New York,” wrote attorney Thomas Schmidt.
“Frequently, our work in New York involves educating school officials on what the law actually says as we defend our member families from unnecessary and unlawful demands for information.”
One district’s letter even went so far as to demand the family’s new address or else report them “to assure child welfare.”
After these families notified HSLDA, the nonprofit worked swiftly to contact the districts on the families’ behalf and explain the error in these requests.
“No school district in New York can prohibit a parent from leaving the state or require them to fill out a form before withdrawing their child from homeschooling,” Schmidt wrote. “Simply moving to another state does not give rise to a concern for the child’s welfare. And no school district in New York can require a parent to provide an ‘acceptance letter’ from the new school district.
“And, if the family moved to a state like Texas or Oklahoma, this would not even be possible. In these states, the right to educate your child at home does not depend on any notice of intent to local school officials, making obtaining such paperwork impossible.”
Procedural hoops before school withdrawal
In the Kansas City area, the Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) nonprofit has received reports of problems arising when families try to withdraw from public school districts.
In several cases, parents received a school document that they were urged to sign, supposedly as a requirement to process the school withdrawal. However, signing such a document is not required by law.
“Because homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, you are free at any time to withdraw your student – at any time in the school year,” the nonprofit explained on its website.
The nonprofit also details other unlawful statements in school documents, such as threats to make future truancy reports if the document is not signed and additional demands for paperwork from the student’s new “private school.”
“Neither of these added restrictions are required by homeschool law – either in Kansas or Missouri,” the nonprofit stated, warning parents not to sign any documentation provided by the district.
“[Signing the document] can give them power to investigate you at any time, if they consider your child ‘at risk’ based on your choice to homeschool. It can also lead to more problems, laws and regulations against homeschooling for you and other families.”
Legal procedures for a successful withdrawal
Parents looking to withdraw their children from public school should follow all necessary legal procedures to avoid truancy charges.
Local homeschool associations can provide many resources for doing so, including sample withdrawal letter templates that can be adapted as needed.
In cases when families still face challenges from school districts after withdrawing, HSLDA encourages parents to reach out immediately for legal assistance.
“Most of these situations are resolved simply and efficiently through a letter, email, or phone call,” the association says on its website.
For HSLDA attorney Michael Donnelly, these examples of government overreach highlight the need for families to defend their individual freedoms as previous generations of homeschoolers did.
“HSLDA will be working with our state partners to see that this behavior is ceased,” Donnelly said, “and to protect the homeschool community by law from such invasive conduct.”