After Wayzata Public Schools illegally threatened a Minnesota homeschool family with criminal charges for allegedly not filing a “mandatory” notice of intent, the parents pushed back, causing school officials to back off and apologize.
“You have two days to give us the information we want or we are filing truancy charges,” the enrollment secretary of Wayzata Public Schools threatened the homeschooling parents concerning their 17-year-old son.
Soon afterward, the family contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) out of fear that further harassment and unwanted criminal charges would ensue. HSLDA attorneys contend that the threat was not only unlawful, but completely unwarranted.
“Minnesota law explicitly states that a letter of intent to continue homeschooling is not required for a child over 16, as long as the family has notified school officials in previous years,” HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly asserted. “This family had previously notified officials, so no further notice was required.”
Despite the school’s lack of legal standing to make such demands and threats, HSLDA attorneys, who were informed about the first demand, point out that such an overstepping of authority is commonplace with the district, which reportedly has a history of harassing the family.
“We assured them that they were in compliance with state law and were under no obligation to file any paperwork for their 17-year-old,” lawyers from the Christian legal group based in Purcellville, Virginia reported. “However, the school official continued to pressure the family with letters and voice messages in an attempt to obtain the information she erroneously thought the district was entitled to.”
Out of fear of looming truancy proceedings, the family gave in to the district’s demand to immediately submit the information. This did not sit well with Donnelly, who handles homeschool cases in Minnesota. He followed up by giving district officials a formal reprimand.
“This school official intimidated our member family based on a faulty understanding of the law,” Donnelly asserted. “I can understand why the family would give in — who wants to deal with that kind of pressure and intimidation when a simple post card can make it go away? However, this school official’s coercion was over the top and needed to be reprimanded.”
Bully buckling under pressure?
The attorney specializing in constitutional law then pressed his case with the Minnesota school district’s superintendent.
“The district’s use of pressure and intimidation on this family in light of the unlawful nature of your request bordered on bullying and was inappropriate at best,” Donnelly contended. “The family deserves an apology, and I would ask that you revise your policies to properly reflect the law so that this doesn’t happen to others in your district.”
HSLDA was pleased with the results of the formal appeal.
“To the district’s credit, an apology was forthcoming,” HSLDA reported. “The official admitted that she did not understand the law as it applied to 17-year-olds whose families had previously notified the school district. She also apologized for her style of communication.”
Despite the successful outcome, HSLDA maintains that most of this type of bullying of homeschoolers by schools goes unreported and unchecked.
“Unfortunately, this sort of unsettling and stressful interaction with school officials is all too common for homeschooling families,” the legal group informed, encouraging homeschoolers across the nation to seek its assistance when harassed rather than caving in to unwarranted demands. “Homeschooling is a large and growing movement, but situations like this show that small misunderstandings can have potentially serious consequences.”