A Minnesota homeschool mom discovered a disturbing package from her local Minneapolis-area school district last fall when her family returned from a national fencing tournament.
“Until this year, they never sent us anything,” said Tonya Lockwood, who has homeschooled her two boys since 2018. “There were rumors about changes in paperwork, then suddenly I had this huge packet from the district with all these homeschool forms to fill out.”
Lockwood contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which told her the forms provided were optional according to the state’s homeschool law.
However, following all necessary requirements didn’t stop the district from sending a threatening letter to Lockwood when she skipped filing the notice. The letter stated she was “not in compliance” with compulsory school attendance rules.
“The next steps include filing truancy charges,” the letter warned. “The police of the city you reside in will also be contacted. An officer will visit your home to ensure your child is safe and being cared for adequately.”
Public schools overstepping boundaries
As more families choose to homeschool nationwide, public-school districts are taking increasingly aggressive steps to follow up by making “unwarranted contacts” with them.
HSLDA’s website noted 137 reports of these contacts over a 30-day period last year.
“In most school districts, officials have a moderately good understanding of homeschool law,” said Scott Woodruff, HSLDA director of legal and legislative advocacy. “Those who don’t – once they begin making unlawful demands – might ramp up these demands with no end in sight if the family does not put their foot down.”
Other examples from different states include a $2,000 bill just to process homeschool paperwork, or threatening to re-enroll students in public school for “noncompliance.”
HSLDA encourages parents to contact its legal team whenever they encounter situations threatening their right to homeschool
“State law defines the legal steps for beginning to homeschool and what documentation parents must provide,” wrote Dave Dentel, the nonprofit’s newsletter editor. “When families comply with requests from officials for more than what the law requires, they risk eroding the liberty and privacy of all homeschoolers.”
Defending homeschool freedoms
When Lockwood received the threatening letter, she again reached out to HSLDA, where she’s also a member.
A few hours after one of the nonprofit’s attorneys emailed the district’s officials explaining how Lockwood had complied with homeschool law, the family received an apology from the school.
The quick turnaround comforted Lockwood, although she wished the district hadn’t taken such a hostile stance after her years-long record of complying with state regulations.
“I’m a rule-follower,” she said. “I don’t push the limits.”