During a January 2016 hearing, a Pennsylvania homeschooling mother was found not guilty of truancy after her local government school district accused her of failing to file required homeschooling paperwork, even though she is no longer homeschooling her children.
In 2014, the York, Pennsylvania mother removed her children from the government school system because, according to the parent, teachers were unable to accommodate her children’s educational needs.
In February 2015, she enrolled her children in a local charter school. Four months after her children began attending the charter school, government school district officials demanded she file paperwork required by the state’s homeschooling laws or face truancy charges.
Pennsylvania homeschooling laws require government school districts to schedule a hearing before the local government’s school board if it is believed the paperwork requirements have not been met, but the government school district failed to do so before filing charges.
‘Tension’ and ‘Conflict’
James Paul, a policy analyst at the Commonwealth Foundation, says this is another example of government-operated schools’ antagonism toward homeschooling families.
“It’s an example of the tension and apparent conflict that exists between a government school system, or the government that exerts a monopoly over the school system, and families that choose a different approach,” Paul said.
Paul says the current system is not engineered to encourage the best educational outcomes for children.
“The whole process is so onerous, and there becomes excessive paperwork for both the families and for the local district and local government … you can’t help but wonder: Is this about empowering families and helping students to get the best education they need, or is this about exercising control?” Paul said. “In cases like the one in Pennsylvania, I think it’s pretty clear that the underlying motivator is control and not freedom and not a family’s right to get the best education.”
Barbara Snider, administrator of the Mason-Dixon Homeschoolers Association, says this case is typical of public school districts’ hostility toward homeschooling.
“I am not surprised,” Snider said. “After more than 30 years of experience in the homeschooling movement, nothing a school district may do in order to prevent or punish homeschooling is new to me. Ever since the modern homeschooling movement began in the 1970s and 1980s, educational professionals have been at odds with parents and sometimes belligerent and aggressive.”
Breaking the Law?
“The school district did not just circumvent their own policies; they defied the homeschooling law in Pennsylvania,” Snider said. “That law was written to protect homeschoolers from the dishonorable treatment that they had received prior to the passage and implementation of the home education law in 1988.
“It appears that local school districts purport to make support ‘available,’ but [districts] do not have a strong desire to actually provide that support to public school or homeschooling parents,” Snider said.
Andrea Dillon ([email protected]) writes from Holly Springs, North Carolina.