The Relationship Between Public Schools and Home Schools in Indiana

All references to Indiana Code are found in the Compulsory School Attendance law:
IC 20-33-2.

WHAT AUTHORIZATION IS NEEDED TO MAKE A HOME SCHOOL LEGAL IN INDIANA?

Home schools are nonpublic, non-accredited schools.  As such, the parent, not the state, legally establishes the school.  No state or public school “permission” is required.

WHAT DOES THE LAW REQUIRE OF HOME EDUCATORS?

They must teach a minimum of 180 days per year. They choose the days on which classes will be held and must keep attendance records; however, the law doesn’t specify form or content requirements for these records. These are the only records that must be provided to local superintendents upon their request.

HEI logoHEI logoThe compulsory school attendance law requires private school educators to report the number of students educated at each grade level upon request of the state superintendent. 

CAN SCHOOLS PREVENT PARENTS, WHO HAVE NOT YET REPORTED THEIR ENROLLMENT TO THE STATE, FROM WITHDRAWING THEIR CHILDREN FOR HOME SCHOOL?  HOW DOES THE PUBLIC SCHOOL VERIFY ENROLLMENT IN THE HOME SCHOOL?

HEI logoParents have the right to choose where their children go to school.  This includes a home school.  Public schools are not authorized to prohibit custodial parents or legal guardians from making such a transfer at any time.

The school should, on behalf of the State Superintendent, request that parents and guardians report their schools’ grade level enrollment to the IDOE, and provide the appropriate state form or telephone number at the time of the transfer.  It is then the parents’ responsibility to comply with the law.  The public school has no duty to verify compliance.

As with any other transfer, the public school’s responsibility ends when the administration of the child’s new school (in this case, the parent) verifies enrollment, either verbally or in writing.

ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS RESPONSIBLE FOR REQUIRING HOME EDUCATING PARENTS TO USE AN APPROVED CURRICULUM, OR FOR MONITORING FOR EQUIVALENCY OF INSTRUCTION?

No.  Upon re-entry, the school can assess the results of the educational process and grant credit or not.  Under Indiana Code, home schools are “not bound by any requirements…with regard to curriculum or the content of educational programs offered by the [public] school.”

There is no statutory definition of equivalency of instruction, nor is there any legal authority for public schools to monitor, or impose curricular requirements upon, nonpublic schools.

HOW DO WE ACCOUNT FOR THE HOME EDUCATED CHILD WHO LEAVES [AND RETURNS]?  WHAT IF THE PARENT NEVER REPORTED ENROLLMENT DATA OR RECEIVED A SCHOOL NUMBER FROM THE IDOE? 

Home educated children are transfer students, regardless of whether their parents’ reported the home school’s enrollment.  Upon re-entry, the public school must enroll the child and begin instruction immediately.  Under no circumstances should resumption of the child’s education be delayed once he or she is returned to the public school.

WHERE SHOULD HOME EDUCATED CHILDREN BE PLACED AFTER THEY ARE RETURNED TO ELEMENTARY OR MIDDLE SCHOOL?

One possibility is to place these children with their age-appropriate peers on a probationary basis.  This minimizes conflicts with parents, while giving the school time to assess a child’s knowledge.

CAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS GRANT CREDIT FOR HIGH SCHOOL WORK PERFORMED IN A HOME SCHOOL?

Yes.  Schools should assess what children have learned, not where they learned it.  The Indiana Department of Education recommends objective testing and/or consideration of documentation presented by parents as soon as possible upon re-entry in order to determine whether any credit will be granted.

While it should not be awarded unless earned, the public school may award credit if the student can demonstrate the knowledge required to pass a course.

Remember, home schools are nonpublic, non-accredited schools, not bound by the regulations that govern curricula, instructional time, or teacher licensure and certification in public schools.

Public schools may give credit for work mastered in such a school without violating state statute, State Board rules, or of jeopardizing their accreditation status.  Again, the IDOE encourages schools to give credit where credit is demonstrated to be due.

WHO DECIDES TO GRANT CREDIT?

The public school corporation has the right to determine placement and what, if any, credit will be granted to a general education student.  While the objective assessment described above is preferable, it is not required by law.

The Department recommends that schools develop a process to govern the granting of credit for work done in any non-public, non-accredited setting; that it be approved by the superintendent and the local school board; and that it be applied uniformly.

Please note that placement of special needs children are determined by case conference committees.

CAN HOME EDUCATED CHILDREN RETURN FOR THE 12TH GRADE AND GRADUATE?

Theoretically, yes, if the public school determines that that the combination of credits awarded for work done in home school and credits earned in an accredited private or public school meets state graduation requirements, and if the student passes the ISTEP+ graduation exam (or qualifies under one of the waiver alternatives) after re-enrolling in the public school.

Remember:  upon re-entry, the public school has the authority to grant or deny credit for work done in home school.

CAN HOME EDUCATED STUDENTS TAKE PART IN PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES?

Indiana Code allows participation with the approval of the superintendent or school board.  They can come to the agreed upon classes and return to their home school for the rest of the day.  They can be counted in attendance, but only if enrolled for at least one class each day.

For example, a student could be enrolled for a course [e.g., computer keyboarding] with the superintendent’s permission, and the student would be counted in attendance in the public school.  However if a student only participates in a class, but is not enrolled, the student would not be counted in attendance.

Dual enrollment or participation in the public school does not subject the home school to any additional regulation by the state or by the local public school.

If the student is enrolled in and attending the public school by the annual ADM count in September, the public school will receive funding from the state based on the number of classes taken.  Public school personnel having questions about state funding for children with dual enrollment should contact the IDOE Division of School Finance at 317-232-0840.

It is up to the public school to decide whether or not to allow a privately educated child to participate in non-educational activities (e.g., dance clubs, etc.)  Participation in high school level sports is subject to approval by the public school, and to the home educator’s willingness to enroll the child in public school for one class per day and otherwise comply with the bylaws of the IHSAA.  For specifics, contact IHSAA at 317-846-6601.

The IHSAA changed its rules regarding home educated students in 2013.  See the IHSAA website for details.

Please note that dual enrollment or attendance in the public school does not subject the home school to any additional regulation by the State or local public schools.

CAN PARENTS ALREADY IN TROUBLE FOR EVENTS OCCURRING IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL (I.E., TRUANCY OR EDUCATIONAL NEGLECT) AVOID LEGAL ACTION BY TRANSFERRING THEIR CHILDREN TO HOME SCHOOL?

Not necessarily.  While public schools have no jurisdiction over children once they are transferred to a nonpublic school, the transfer does not “clean the slate” of past bad behavior.  Prosecutors may pursue charges brought prior to withdrawal if they believe it is in a child’s best interest.

HOW DO WE KNOW THAT A CHILD IS BEING EDUCATED?

We don’t.  The law does not allow public education to supervise nonpublic schooling through testing, inspection, or curriculum approval.  The home educating parent has assumed legal responsibility for the child’s education and will be held accountable should minimum statutory requirements not be met.

Persons with specific reasons to believe a parent is unable or unwilling to educate his or her school-aged child are obligated to report this to the county child protective services office (IC 31-33-5-2).  However, the solitary facts that a parent chooses to home educate, and /or fails to notify the State of his or her home school’s grade level enrollment  (‘register”), are not, in and of themselves, cause for such a report, nor do they constitute educational neglect in and of themselves.

Anyone who intentionally files a fraudulent report may be subject to prosecution for malicious reporting under Indiana law.

If you have questions or comments, contact:

Audra Hacker
Office of Student Services
Indiana Department of Education
Room 229, State House, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Voice:  317-232-9111 | Fax:  317-232-9121

Print Friendly and PDF