Dealing with Requests from Public School Districts
A number of school districts in Wisconsin are contacting homeschoolers to request information for a variety of reasons. Often the officials making these requests do not understand the laws they point to as a basis for their requests. If your district contacts you, WPA suggests you consider the following:
1. WPA encourages parents not to give school districts their children’s names, ages, birthdates, social security numbers, health status, or disabilities; the parents’ occupation or income; etc. Providing such information is not required by law, invades our privacy, and undermines our freedoms.
If the district claims it needs information for the school census, either send them a copy of your PI-1206 form or the information on your form. For more information, see the WPA handbook, pages 224–226.
2. Our homeschooling freedoms will be stronger if you write a letter explaining that the school district’s request is not supported by statutes and therefore you will not comply. See below for a sample letter. Send copies to of your letter to people such as attorneys, pastors, and others who you know. List the names of these people following the cc: at the end of your letter. When homeschoolers respond in this way, we show officials that homeschooling continues to be a strong grassroots movement and that we know what our rights are and will take action to maintain them. This minimizes the likelihood that they will continue to misuse our personal contact information.
3. Send WPA a copy of the letter and other information you received and your response.
4. If the letter tells you to bring your child for preschool screening or other screening, remember that such screenings can lead to serious problems and are not required by law, even though such letters often make it sound as though they are. For more information on the problems caused by screenings, see the WPA handbook page 221 and the article on preschool screening on the WPA web site. Go to the page Preschool & Early Childhood Education and look for “Important Information About Preschool Screening.”
5. Share this information with other homeschoolers in your school district.
Here is a general letter that can be used under in response most requests from school districts. To strengthen your letter, after the second paragraph, insert one (or more) of the specific paragraphs below that address the requests or demands made by officials in your district.
[Your street address
Your city, state, and zip code
[Name and title of the person who sent you the letter
Name of school district
Address as given in the letter]
Dear Mr. or Ms. or Dr. [last name of person who sent you the letter]:
I am responding to your letter dated [date on the letter including year].
The document a local public school district in Wisconsin is authorized to have from a homeschool is a copy of form PI-1206 which the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) sends to local public school districts. Filing form PI-1206 with the DPI fulfills the legal requirement of notifying the state that children are enrolled in a homeschool as stated in Wisconsin statute 118.165. When the Wisconsin Legislature was considering the details of the homeschooling law before passing it in 1984, it debated whether to require homeschools to provide the names and birthdates of homeschooled children on this form. The Legislature decided not to require this information in order to protect the privacy of homeschooled families. Thus, there is no provision in Wisconsin statutes requiring that homeschooled children be registered with local public schools or that homeschools’ reports of enrollment include the names and ages of children.
Also, the DPI has made it clear that private school students including homeschoolers should not be included in the Wisconsin Student Number Locator System (WSLS).
Therefore, I am not going to supply the information you requested. If you have sent similar requests to other homeschools, I encourage you to rescind such requests and remove their names and other information they may have given you from your school enrollment records.
In addition, I would like to remind you that a school district’s use of information from homeschools’ PI-1206 forms for purposes other than record keeping is a violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I don’t know whether you used information from my PI-1206 form to contact me. Whether or not you did, please do not use the information to contact me in the future.
Please respond in writing to indicate that you have received this letter and that you rescind your request.
cc: [An attorney, your pastor, and/or other persons you know]
Specific information that you can add after the second paragraph:
Request in the letter you received: The school district claims it needs your children’s names, ages, birthdates, etc. for the school census.
Suggested paragraph to add to your letter: The school census law (which does provide for requesting children’s names and birthdates) is in conflict with the more specific homeschooling statute which does not require homeschools to provide such information. When there is a conflict in laws, the more specific law governing a specific class of citizens (in this case, homeschoolers) is given preference. Also, the PI-1206 form does provide the essential information needed for the school census, namely, the gender and grade level of children. Moreover, the school census statute provides that school districts can make estimates of the number of children by gender and grade.
Request in the letter you received: The school district instructs you to “register” your children with the district.
Suggested paragraph to add to your letter: In addition, “dual enrollment” (that is, enrollment in more than one school) is prohibited in Wisconsin, in part because public school districts should not receive taxpayers’ money for students who are being educated elsewhere. Therefore, it would likely be illegal for homeschoolers to “register” with a local school district.
Request in the letter you received: The school district claims it needs information to comply with requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind program.
Suggested paragraph to add to your letter: In addition, the federal No Child Left Behind program regulations apply only to schools that receive public funds, not to most private schools and not to homeschools.
Request in the letter you received: The school district wants information from you so it can develop programs that homeschoolers will want to participate in. (School districts are trying to increase their enrollments because the larger the enrollment, the more money they receive from the state.)
A specific response is not needed because this issue is covered by the paragraph about FERPA in the general letter above.