Two Homeschooling Families Face Fines—and Jail Time—Due to Innocent Clerical Errors

“I’ve never met a true homeschooling family. Everyone I’ve ever met were either truants or drunks,” the principal of Atwood High School said with a smirk.

“Well Sir, I can assure you I am neither,” was the best retort I could muster.

At that time, homeschooling was still a fringe movement. In Ohio, it seems, moving into the mainstream hasn’t eased the tension between school authorities and homeschooling parents.

Ohio authorities have filed criminal charges against two families for missing paperwork deadlines. If convicted, according to Home School Legal Defense (HSLDA), the families could face tens of thousands in fines and more than a decade of jail time.

The families are from two different school districts, but face criminal complaints with a single common denominator—innocent clerical errors.

“Both families were somewhat new to homeschooling in Ohio. One family filed a notice of intent when they began homeschooling last year, but did not know they had to file another notice for this school year. The other family filed their annual notice of intent, but did not submit an educational assessment with their notice because they had not yet completed it, and had been told by their school district that there was no deadline for submitting the assessment.

Even though both families continued to educate their children, their school districts decided to treat the children as “truant.” The schools also waited to contact the families until the children had accumulated more than a month of “absences,” instead of addressing the issue when the school began marking the children ‘absent.'”

As soon as the families understood what was required of them, they complied with their respective school’s demands.

Their superintendents sent letters to the families verifying they were, in fact, now in compliance with the current school year’s requirements, then filed criminal charges of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” with each child as a separate offense.

In spite of following the law, making sacrifices to educate their children, they will be tried as criminals later this month.

As a retired homeschooling mom, I’d like to offer a few words of caution that parents should heed, no matter how “friendly” your state homeschooling laws are:

  • Join HSLDA. They are the best insurance you can buy against spiteful school officials who assume power that is not rightly theirs.
  • Be Prepared. Enter each school year as if it is your first. Check the current laws. Have your curriculum in place. Start before the school does.
  • Keep Good Records. Above what the law requires, keep samples of your child’s work that shows progress. Include copies of health records.
  • Avoid the Appearance of Wrongdoing. Keep your children in during school hours. If your intention is to teach them in peace, don’t make a statement about your rights at their expense. Also, wait until after school hours to take school-aged kids grocery shopping.

Never take your freedom for granted. Teaching your children at home is the most rewarding journey your family can embark on—make sure everyone arrives safely.