A school district in New York state threatened to stop a family from homeschooling their children because its officials refused to believe residency information that was already submitted to officials.
The Monroe-Woodbury Central School District (MWCSD) made things difficult for a New York homeschool family by calling into question and rejecting the fact that they actually lived within the district – even though they had already submitted the required information.
Regardless, the process of the family’s homeschool paperwork was held up, meaning that their homeschool program would not be allowed to move forward … leaving them with a possible crisis that forced public school enrollment could be in their children’s future.
The Virginia-based Christian nonprofit organization Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reviewed the facts and quickly assed that the district was in thing wrong.
“The family had complied with New York’s homeschool law by sending in both their notice of intent and individualized home instruction plan,” HSLDA reported. “However, officials claimed they couldn’t accept these without knowing for certain that the family actually lived in the district.”
School officials would not relent and would not process the family’s paperwork to homeschool until it received every form they demanded – even though the district was still required to move everything forward and not preclude children from being educated from home.
“Specifically, they wanted a copy of the student’s birth certificate and other documentation proving residency,” HSLDA Legal Assistant Brandt Edmonston noted. “The problem with this demand is that while the district is technically allowed to ask for proof of age and residency, they are not exempted from fulfilling their state-appointed duty to process the homeschool paperwork.”
In fact, by withholding the family’s ability to homeschool, the district was acting illegally, as pointed out to the school officials by HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt.
“Schmidt called to remind district officials that refusing to accept the notice of intent was not legal,” Edmonston recounted. “The officials replied by claiming that the family didn’t live in their district.”
Punishing others for its mistake
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the district was punishing the homeschool family for its own mistake.
“When Schmidt questioned them further, he learned that they had typed the wrong address into their search of the school tax records,” HSLDA informed.
After learning about its errant ways, the district had no other choice than to lighten its unreasonable demand and make a bit of a concession.
“Eventually the officials relented and agreed to only require our member family to show proof of age and residency without having to leave any personal information with the district,” Edmonston recapped.
Not uncommon in New York
Unfortunately, similar unlawful demands have been reported to HSLDA on a regular basis in the Empire State, with some dating back more than a decade ago.
[Homeschoolers in New York] have had their local school district demand that their children must be registered in the public school system before they could teach them at home,” HSLDA reported in 2004. “At least one district even attempted to require proof of residency and age of the children before the family could begin homeschooling.”
Unreasonable and unlawful demands for information – in order for homeschool families to be able to teach their own – were made this year in different locations.
“HSLDA member families in Islip and North Syracuse were surprised to receive a letter from their respective school districts informing them that before their children could be taught at home they would need to fill out a "new entrant" form and register with the school district,” the Purcellville, Virginia- based legal group recounted. “A member family in the Shenedehowa Central School District (SCSD) received a letter demanding proof of residency and age of their child. Shenedehowa wanted the family to submit a deed, lease or a utility bill for the proof of residency and either a birth certificate or passport for proof of age.”
Similar to the way he set the record straight for the MWCSD this month, Schmidt let the SCSD know that they were out of bounds in their dealings with parents by making unlawful demands.
“After being contacted by our member families HSLDA attorney Tj Schmidt informed each school district that New York law does not require parents teaching their children at home to register with the public school, provide proof of residency or proof of age,” HSLDA attorneys reported at the time.
Texas tough on homeschoolers, too
New York is not the only state that has been recorded giving homeschoolers a hard time regarding residency,according to the Texas Home School Coalition
“Homeschoolers have … been denied a Texas driver license by local Department of Public Safety (DPS) offices because, they [we]re told, they are without official school records,” THSC reported back in November 2014. “This policy made it difficult to provide documentation of residency to the DPS offices.”
The Texas homeschool advocacy group soon contacted the DPS in Austin, Texas, to inform the state officials that a Verification of Enrollment (VOE) form must be accepted as supporting documentation, as official DPS policy has allowed this since 2003. In fact, DPS was well aware that such forms should have been accepted, as they were in the past – on more than one occasion.
“In 2008 and 2003 we were informed that the Department considers the VOE an official school record,” THSC’s Tim Lambert recalled. “We were also assured that it was acceptable as a supporting document for identification, and therefore, could be used as documentation of residency.”
However, the DPS officials were less than willing to admit their own error and make things right.
“We were told that the VOE is useful for ‘limited purposes’ and cannot be used for proof of residency,” Lambert continued. “Because of the disparity between the two expressed policies, THSC drafted another letter, seeking clarification once again on this issue.”
THSC maintains that homeschoolers should not be treated as second-rate students, and that they should not be targeted by discriminatory practices.
“Homeschooling is legal in Texas, and, therefore, homeschoolers should be treated in the same manner as are students attending a more traditional school,” Lambert concluded. “… [A]ll home schoolers [should have] the same equal opportunity to obtain a driver license in Texas as any other student.”