Table of Contents:

  1. Summary of the Law
  2. State Laws
  3. Federal Laws
  4. Testing & Registration
  5. Dual Enrollment
  6. Dealing With Health & Welfare, Police, and School Districts
    The Social Worker at Your Door: 10 Helpful Hints (pdf)
  7. Department of Education Protocols

I. Summary of the Law

As a result of the changes brought about by revisions made to Idaho's compulsory school law in 2009, Home schooling families in Idaho enjoy greater liberties than are available in any other state. These are the actual statutes that govern home education in Idaho.

Idaho law requires only that parents who choose to teach their children at home provide instruction in subjects commonly and usually taught in the public schools of Idaho. As compared to the laws in the rest of the nation, Idaho's provide tremendous freedoms. You can view a comparison of the home schooling laws of the various states.

Statutes do not define the precise subject materials that must be taught to home schooled students each year. They do not specify how many hours per day or days per year the student must be instructed. That is all left to the discretion of the parents as they decide how to design their child's program. This permits the parents to teach to their student's natural curiosity and to advance each child as he or she masters each component of the subject matter.

Students between the ages of seven (7) and sixteen (16) years of age are required to receive an education. Prior to a child's seventh (7th) birthday and after a child's sixteenth (16th) birthday, instruction is not mandatory.

People sometimes wonder if home schoolers in Idaho might be a little too free. In reality, the present dynamic was carefully crafted in a cooperative effort between ICHE, CHOIS, and several state agencies. Here is a page that explains how our present arrangement is a healthy balance between sometimes-competing interests -- freedom for the parents and families on the one hand and protection for the children on the other.

Although home schooled students are not required to take standardized tests, ICHE encourages parents to routinely test their children to insure that educational progress is being made and to spot areas of weakness within the body of knowledge that has been mastered by the student. ICHE offers the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Iowa Tests of Educational Development to all privately home schooled students in the state on a voluntary basis.

In the event that a parent fails to provide instruction as required, juvenile charges may be brought against the child and criminal charges may be brought against the parent. But before such charges will be sustained, the prosecutor's office must have credible evidence that the child is not being properly instructed. The home schooling family cannot be required to prove their innocence of the charges unless and until evidence suggesting that that the child is not receiving an education is discovered. Instead, the family is entitled to a presumption of innocence until such evidence is produced by the police or the prosecutor.

One year after Idaho's new compulsory education statute was enacted in 2009, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (in collaboration with ICHE and Christian Homeschoolers of Idaho State) adopted an excellent set of investigational guidelines. Those procedures are to be followed whenever a question arises as to whether home schooling parents are teaching their children in the required manner. Those guidelines are included at the end of Section II ("State Laws"), below. Based on all of this, ICHE wishes to emphatically affirm that, if you have any information about child neglect or child abuse here in Idaho, you must immediately report that information to any police or sheriff's department or to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Failure to do so is a crime!

Home educated students in Idaho have an option to dually-enroll in selected public school courses or programs. This may include academic classes, sports programs, band, and orchestra opportunities. The materials included in section V, below, set forth more of the rules that apply to dually-enrolled students.

Students may also enroll in charter school computer-based distance education programs. However, it should be remembered that such students are enrolled as full-time public school students. They are not home schooling.

The enrollment in such a program requires the parents and the students to adhere to the regulations that govern the particular program in which the student is enrolled, including state mandated testing and extensive record-keeping to document the number of hours of instruction which the child receives in each of the subject matters in which instruction is given. Unfortunately, the rigidity of such programs of necessity eliminates the tremendous flexibility which produces such strong academic achievement among those students who are privately taught at home. For additional information on the shortcomings of such online programs, please see the information available here.

II. State Laws

Idaho Code sections 33-202, 33-203, 33-206, and 33-207 contain the statutes pertaining to home education in Idaho. Idaho statutes place upon parents and guardians the freedom and responsibility to determine the method of education to be pursued for each child. No registration, reporting, or compulsory testing requirements for home educated students exist under Idaho statutes. Additional protections exist under section 73-402 for parents who choose to home educate for religious reasons.

  1. Idaho Code, section 33-202. SCHOOL ATTENDANCE COMPULSORY. The parent or guardian of any child resident in this state who has attained the age of seven (7) years at the time of the commencement of school in his district, but not the age of sixteen (16) years, shall cause the child to be instructed in subjects commonly and usually taught in the public schools of the state of Idaho. To accomplish this, a parent or guardian shall either cause the child to be privately instructed by, or at the direction of, his parent or guardian; or enrolled in a public school or public charter school, including an online or virtual charter school or private or parochial school during a period in each year equal to that in which the public schools are in session; there to conform to the attendance policies and regulations established by the board of trustees, or other governing body, operating the school attended.

  2. Idaho Code, section 33-206. HABITUAL TRUANT DEFINED. An habitual truant is any public school pupil who, in the judgment of the board of trustees, repeatedly has violated the attendance regulations established by the board; or any child whose parents or guardians, or any of them, have failed or refused to cause such child to be instructed as provided in section 33-202, Idaho Code, and the child shall come under the purview of the juvenile corrections act if he or she is within the age of compulsory attendance.

    Whenever it is determined by the board of trustees of any school district that any child enrolled in public school repeatedly has violated the attendance regulations established by the board, or whenever it is determined by the board under provisions providing due process of law for the student and his or her parents that the parents or guardians of any child are failing to meet the requirements of section 33-202, Idaho Code, an authorized representative of the board shall notify in writing the prosecuting attorney in the county of the pupil's residence and recommend that a petition shall be filed in the magistrates division of the district court of the county of the pupil's residence, in such form as the court may require under the provisions of section 20-510, Idaho Code.


    1. Whenever the parents or guardians of any child between the ages of seven (7) years, as qualified in section 33-202, Idaho Code, and sixteen (16) years, have failed, neglected or refused to place the child in school as provided in this chapter or to have the child comparably instructed as defined in section 33-202, Idaho Code, or knowingly have allowed a pupil to become an habitual truant, proceedings shall be brought against such parent or guardian under the provisions of the juvenile corrections act or as otherwise provided in subsection (2) of this section.

    2. Whenever it is determined by the board of trustees of any school district that a child enrolled in public school is an habitual truant, as defined in section 33-206, Idaho Code, an authorized representative of the board shall notify in writing the prosecuting attorney in the county of the child's residence. Proceedings may be brought directly against any parent or guardian of a public school pupil who is found to have knowingly allowed such pupil to become an habitual truant, and such parent or guardian shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

    3. Whenever it is determined by the board under provisions providing due process of law for the student and his or her parents that the parents or guardians of any child not enrolled in a public school are failing to meet the requirements of section 33-202, Idaho Code, an authorized representative of the board shall notify in writing the prosecuting attorney in the county of the pupil's residence and recommend that a petition shall be filed in the magistrates division of the district court of the county of the pupil's residence, in such form as the court may require under the provisions of section 20-510, Idaho Code.

  4. Idaho Code, section 73-402. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION PROTECTED.

    1. Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state, even if laws, rules or other government actions are facially neutral.
    2. Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section, government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
    3. Government may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is both: (a) Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; (b) The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
    4. A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government. A party who prevails in any action to enforce this chapter against a government shall recover attorney's fees and costs.
    5. In this section, the term "substantially burden" is intended solely to ensure that this chapter is not triggered by trivial, technical or de minimis infractions.

  5. Idaho Code, section E. 33-203. DUAL ENROLLMENT.

    1. The parent or guardian of a child of school age who is enrolled in a nonpublic school or a public charter school shall be allowed to enroll the student in a public school for dual enrollment purposes. The board of trustees of the school district shall adopt procedures governing enrollment pursuant to this section. If enrollment in a specific program reaches the maximum for the program, priority for enrollment shall be given to a student who is enrolled full time in the public non-charter school.

    2. Any student participating in dual enrollment may enter into any program in the public school available to other students subject to compliance with the eligibility requirements herein and the same responsibilities and standards of behavior and performance that apply to any student's participation in the activity, except that the academic eligibility requirements for participation in nonacademic activities are as provided for herein.

    3. Any school district shall be allowed to include dual-enrolled nonpublic school and public charter school students for the purposes of state funding only to the extent of the student's participation in the public school programs.

    4. Oversight of academic standards relating to participation in nonacademic public school activities shall be the responsibility of the primary educational provider for that student. In order for any nonpublic school student or public charter school student to participate in nonacademic public school activities for which public school students must demonstrate academic proficiency or eligibility, the nonpublic school or public charter school student shall demonstrate composite grade-level academic proficiency on any state board of education recognized achievement test, portfolio, or other mechanism as provided for in state board of education rules. Additionally, a student shall be eligible if he achieves a minimum composite, core or survey test score within the average or higher than average range as established by the test service utilized on any nationally-normed test. Demonstrated proficiency shall be used to determine eligibility for the current and next following school years. School districts shall provide to nonpublic students who wish to participate in dual enrollment activities the opportunity to take state tests or other standardized tests given to all regularly enrolled public school students.

    5. A public school student who has been unable to maintain academic eligibility is ineligible to participate in nonacademic public school activities as a nonpublic school or public charter school student for the duration of the school year in which the student becomes academically ineligible and for the following academic year.

    6. A nonpublic school or public charter school student participating in nonacademic public school activities must reside within the attendance boundaries of the school for which the student participates.

    7. Dual enrollment shall include the option of joint enrollment in a regular public school and an alternative public school program. The state board of education shall establish rules that provide funding to school districts for each student who participates in both a regular public school program and an alternative public school program.

    8. Dual enrollment shall include the option of enrollment in a post-secondary institution. Any credits earned from an accredited post-secondary institution shall be credited toward state board of education high school graduation requirements.

    9. A nonpublic student is any student who receives educational instruction outside a public school classroom and such instruction can include, but is not limited to, a private school or a home school.

Idaho Department of Health & Welfare:
Guidelines for the Assessment of Claims of Educational Neglect

To assess educational neglect, the following assessment process shall be followed:

  1. If a referent makes an allegation of educational neglect, stating the child is being home schooled, the intake social worker will explain to the referent that "home schooling" does not constitute an allegation of educational neglect. Parents have many choices regarding the method for educating their child as well as the type of instructional materials they can use. If home schooling is the only concern related to educational neglect, the referral will not be assigned for further assessment.

  2. The role of the intake social worker is to ask specific questions to determine why the referent has reason to believe that educational neglect is occurring. If the referent can supply credible and sufficient detailed information that a child is not receiving instruction in subjects commonly and usually taught in the public schools as is required by Idaho Code, section 33-202, the referral will be assigned a priority three response and a social worker will respond for further assessment. The intake social worker will ask the referent if they have collateral contacts that can offer additional information.

  3. If the referent does not provide credible and sufficient detailed information that is reasonable to believe educational neglect is occurring, the referral will be recorded as received, "information only." The referral will not be assigned for further assessment.

  4. If the referral has adequate information and is prioritized for a response, the social worker will contact the family to assess the concern. At initial contact, the parents will be informed of the reason and specifics of the referral, including the specific information which the social worker believes supports the referral.

  5. If the family provides refuting evidence (consisting of either curriculum, test scores, lesson plans, or description of educational efforts, etc.) or demonstrates that the information from the referral is not credible, the assessment will be closed and dispositioned as unsubstantiated. It is not the role of the social worker to evaluate the quality of the instructional materials selected by the child's parent or guardian, but to encourage parents to insure compliance with Idaho Code, section 33-202.

  6. If the family fails or refuses to provide evidence that education is taking place, the social worker will provide the family with referrals to educational programs and resources as appropriate.

  7. The social worker will check with the family to see if they have taken advantage of the referrals to educational programs and resources.

  8. If the family does not access or implement referrals to educational programs, the social worker may contact the prosecuting attorney regarding possible court intervention.

Additional Perspectives from Home Educators:

For further information please call:

Child Welfare Program Manager
Idaho Department of Health & Welfare

Department of Health & Welfare

III. Federal Laws

Since educational laws are primarily set at the state level, few federal statutes apply to home educated students. However, one federal law is of particular importance to such students.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act includes the following provision:

"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to affect a home school, whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under State law, nor shall any student schooled at home be required to participate in any assessment referenced in this Act." (20 United States Code, sec. 7886)

This provision expressly prevents the state from requiring home educated students to take the same Idaho Standard Achievement Test that each publicly taught student is regularly required to take. Exemption of home schooled students from this requirement adds to the freedoms that permit the flexibility that has resulted in such exceptional academic performance by home schooled students. As noted above, although home educated students cannot be compelled to take the ISAT or any other standardized test, ICHE encourages parents to privately have their students tested on a regular basis to insure the student's progress in all areas of study.

IV. Testing & Registration

     Every year at the legislature some well-meaning souls express an interest in requiring all home educated students to register with the state or their local school districts. They also want to require those students to take Idaho's state achievement test, the ISAT, to "make sure that no one falls through the cracks."
     And every year we adamantly oppose any such suggestion.
     Some have wondered why ICHE, CHOIS, HSLDA, and most home schoolers are so resolutely opposed to mandatory registration and testing. After all, since home educated students excel academically and socially, what is the danger in consenting to such requirements?
     Here are some of the reasons for that resistance.

  1. Research:
         At the outset, it is important to understand that there is no data identifying a correlation between government regulation and home schooling test scores. In fact, the studies demonstrate that, whether students reside in states with low, moderate, or high levels of regulation, the test scores are statistically identical. Indeed, in some states with the highest level of home school regulation, a movement is underway to reduce that scrutiny because few, if any, cases of educational neglect have actually been found to exist in the nearly two decades of oversight.
         Spending tax dollars to build another bureaucracy to oversee home education is not only an unnecessary expenditure, it is entirely unfounded empirically. Further, mandatory testing of home educated students is expressly forbidden under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. And states which impose their state assessment test on home schoolers risk losing their federal funding for education.

  2. The Net Too Large & Too Fine:
         At its heart, the proposal to register and test all home educated students suffers from being too large and too fine of a net. If there are students who are being educationally neglected, they are few and far between. And the laws are already in place to prosecute the parents of such students. Our laws rightly support the presumption of innocence of all citizens unless credible evidence to the contrary exists. But if such evidence exists, the parents should be prosecuted.
         Despite the paucity of genuine cases of neglect, opponents of home education propose rounding up all home schoolers for registration and testing. This makes no more sense than putting a cast on the arms of all school children in the state because a few will break their arms in the coming year. Such a proposal would be instantaneously and overwhelmingly rejected as a massive invasion of our citizens' privacy. Yet the opponents of home education see no parallel to their calls for the mandatory and universal registration and testing of home educated children.

  3. Equal Dignity:
         It is also important to keep sight of the fact that home schools in Idaho stand legally on an equal footing with public schools, public charter schools, private schools, and parochial schools. All enjoy equal recognition and all should enjoy similar treatment under the law.
         Requiring home schooled students to register with the state or with their local public schools would reduce home educated students to a second-class status. It would legally make no more sense than requiring public school students to register with a nearby home schooling family. And it would compromise the freedom from regulation that we enjoy.

  4. Never Enough:
         Registration of students by itself does absolutely nothing to assess or ensure the quality of the education being received by those students. If there were parents who claimed to be teaching their children at home, but who were not adequately doing so, demanding that those parents register their children with the state or with the local school district would not provide any basis for discerning or concluding that neglect is occurring.
         In order to ascertain if educational neglect exists, more information is necessary. Much more. The school district would need to verify and evaluate the curriculum used, the manner in which the curriculum was taught, and the number of hours of instruction given per week. The actual registration of the students would merely be the first step toward a massive bureaucratic invasion of the privacy and freedoms enjoyed by families who teach their children at home.
         Home schooling families must always resist any effort that will ultimately result in the ability of the state or the local school district to dictate which curriculum is to be used and how it is to be taught. The state's standards of review could tend to eliminate faith-based curricula and approve only the state-adopted texts that conform to the state standards. Classroom texts, rather than tutorial materials, would prevail. It is precisely the freedom we enjoy, both in the selection of curriculum and the manner of instruction, that has produced the stellar academic results that characterize home education in Idaho.

  5. Testing Has Its Limits:
         Standardized testing is a good thing. It assesses the academic achievement of the student. It alerts the parents or teachers to gaps in the learning of the student that may need to be filled. That is why ICHE spends so many thousands of volunteer hours every year providing the opportunity for home educated students to be tested.
         And those test results for home educated students as a group provide our best evidence of the superiority of our tutorial system of teaching. They have deflected many efforts in the legislature over the years to "crack down on home education."
         But are the individual test results for any given student an accurate indicator of the quality of the education that the child has actually received? No.
         Many families who choose to home educate include both children who naturally excel academically and children with special needs. They each receive instruction of the same quality. In all likelihood, the parents actually spend more time with the challenged student than with the one that excels.
         Now imagine that those children were both required to take the state assessment test. The results would be startlingly different. Same parents. Same quality of education. Dramatically different test scores.
         Those who propose that all home educated students be required to take standardized tests believe that they can verify the competency of the instruction being given by the test scores of the children.
         If presented with evidence that a child scores on the 20th percentile on a standardized test, some legislators will jump to the conclusion that the education received by that child was inadequate. But when they learn that the child has Downs Syndrome and that, in the public school, the same child scored on the 5th percentile, the dynamic shifts dramatically. Many legislators have failed to consider this aspect of test scores. Most are so focused on obtaining empirical data upon which a decision can be based that they fail to ensure that the data in question is suitable for such use.
         I am reminded of a home schooled senior who recently qualified as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, scoring in the top one-half of one percent on the PSAT tests. I congratulated his mother on her son's fine performance. Her response was simple: she had long ago taught her son how to be an independent scholar who researches, reasons, and learns for himself. He did the rest. That lesson will serve him well for his entire life. But the state or her local school district may well have disapproved of her teaching program had they examined her curriculum and hours of formalized instruction.

  6. The Opposition:
         Behind the drive to register and test home educated students lies the agenda of those for whom it takes a village to raise a child. Their prize? Control of the second largest sector in the American economy, the education industry.
         Almost one in every 100 Americans is a member of the largest and most powerful union in the country, the National Education Association (NEA). Currently, 90% of the $373 billion spent in this country on K-12 education is controlled by public schools. The NEA's stated goal? 100% control.
         Home educators are a successful and effective roadblock to that goal. On the other hand, the registration of home schoolers would be the first step in a process that could result in the evaluation and ultimately the integration of those students into the public school "village." That is why we so often find the NEA, the IEA, and their members behind these efforts to register and test.

  7. The Path Not Taken:
         Home education is still the best system for teaching one's children. An overwhelming body of research confirms that it produces the best academic results. It produces the best social skills. It produces accomplished adults.
         Every plan to require home schooled students to register with the state and every proposal to evaluate the education being given with standardized test scores is an attempt to force the square peg of a superior private tutorial system into the round hole of a less successful institutional public school worldview. Why would home educators exchange their precious freedom and success for the shackles of this bureaucratic system? Instead, the public school system should be looking for ways to emulate the far more successful home school paradigm. The path not taken should remain just that, a vacant one.

V. Dual Enrollment

Any parent interested in having his or her child participate in any public school program, activity, or class should read Idaho Code section 33-203 over carefully before seeking to dually-enroll the child. The full text of that statute is listed here. The main components of the statute are:

  1. Under dual enrollment, the child is considered enrolled in the public school, albeit for limited purposes only. The public school can and will maintain records on the student. (subsection[1] of section 33-203)
  2. The board of trustees of the school have some latitude in adopting rules to govern dual enrollment. Those rules cannot contradict this statute, however. (subsection[1] of section 33-203)
  3. Regularly enrolled students will have priority over dually-enrolled students and can bump the dually-enrolled student from the program. (subsection [1] of section 33-203)
  4. Every public school program is open to dual enrollment. (subsection [2] of section 33-203)
  5. Once dually-enrolled, the student must meet the same behavior and performance standards that are applied to the public school students under the program. (subsection [2] of section 33-203)
  6. If the program requires academic qualification to participate, the qualification is established under this statute and may be satisfied by either of the following: (subsection [4] of section 33-203)
    1. grade level proficiency in any state board of education recognized achievement test; or
    2. scores in the average or above average range on any nationally-normed achievement test. Please note that, for those students who have taken the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills or the Iowa Tests of Educational Development, the average range extends down to the 26th percentile. Any score on the 26th percentile or higher will qualify the student to participate in such activities.
  7. Once established, academic eligibility shall cover the school year for which it is established and the next school year. If academic eligibility is lost, it shall be lost for the remainder of that school year and all of the next school year. (subsections [4] and [5] of section 33-203)
  8. A student may only dually-enroll for nonacademic activities (e.g., sports) at the public school in whose boundaries the student resides. (subsection [6] of section 33-203)

VI. Dealing with Health & Welfare, Police, and School Districts

Home education in Idaho stands on an equal footing with public schooling. Parents who choose to home school their children are not required to register with the state or with the local school district. They are not required to have their children take standardized achievement tests. So long as the child is being instructed in subjects commonly and usually taught in the public schools, no other requirement applies.

Occasionally, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, a local school district, or a police or sheriff's department receives a complaint that a home schooling family is not providing an adequate education to the children. By law, such an allegation must be investigated. If it is proven, juvenile charges may be brought against the child and criminal charges may be brought against the parents.

Although the public agencies have an obligation to investigate all such claims, there is no requirement that families submit to or cooperate with such an investigation unless a search warrant is first obtained.

If a family is presented with a valid search warrant, they must cooperate within the bounds described in the warrant. If no search warrant has been obtained, families should be cautious as they consider whether to cooperate. Once in a great while, a police, school, or Health and Welfare investigator may use inappropriate methods to try to prove the existence of an educational violation. Although such instances are very rare, home schooling families should not assume that they never occur. What follows at the end of this section is excellent advice from the Home School Legal Defense Association concerning how to respond when you are contacted by a representative of one of these agencies.

In a couple of related cases that were decided in Boise in 1990, the judges established the principle that home schooling families are not required to cooperate with any official investigation. They also established the principle that the failure of a family to cooperate with such an investigation could not be viewed as proof of the violation of the statutes. Only independent credible evidence of an actual failure to provide instruction will subject the family to prosecution. Since the violation of the statute will subject the parents to criminal charges, the parents are entitled to all of the rights that are available in Idaho to every criminal defendant. This includes the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to due process of law.

Here is the wise advice prepared by Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA):

The Social Worker At Your Door: 10 Helpful Hints

By Christopher J. Klicka, Senior Counsel for the
Home School Legal Defense Association

More and more frequently, home schoolers are turned in on child abuse hotlines to social service agencies. Families who do not like home schoolers can make an anonymous phone call to the child abuse hotline and fabricate abuse stories about home schoolers. The social worker then has an obligation to investigate. Each state has a different policy for social workers, but generally they want to come into the family's home and speak with the children separately. To allow either of these to occur involves great risk to the family.

The home school parent, however, should be very cautious when an individual identifies himself as a social worker. In fact, there are several tips that a family should follow:

  1. Always get the business card of the social worker. This way, when you call your attorney or Home School Legal Defense Association, if you are a member, the attorney will be able to contact the social worker on your behalf. If the situation is hostile, HSLDA members should immediately call our office and hand the phone out the door so an HSLDA lawyer can talk to the social worker. We have a 24 hour emergency number.
  2. Find out the allegations. Do not fall for the frequently used tactic of the social worker who would tell the unsuspecting victims that they can only give you the allegations after they have come into your home and spoken to your child separately. You generally have the right to know the allegations without allowing them in your home.
  3. Never let the social worker in your house without a warrant or court order. All the cases that you have heard about where children are snatched from the home usually involve families waiving their Fourth Amendment right to be free from such searches and seizures by agreeing to allow the social worker to come inside the home. A warrant requires "probable cause" which does not include an anonymous tip or a mere suspicion. This is guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the courts. (In extremely rare situations, police may enter a home without a warrant if there are exigent circumstances, i.e., police are aware of immediate danger or harm to the child.)

    However, in some instances, social workers or police threaten to use force to come into a home. If you encounter a situation which escalates to this level, record the conversation if at all possible, but be sure to inform the police officer or social worker that you are doing this. If entry is going to be made under duress you should say and do the following: "I am closing my front door, but it is unlocked. I will not physically prevent you from entering, and I will not physically resist you in any way. But you do not have my permission to enter. If you open my door and enter, you do so without my consent, and I will seek legal action for an illegal entry."
  4. Never let the social worker talk to your children alone without a court order. On nearly every other incident concerning our members, HSLDA has been able to keep the social worker away from the children. On a few occasions, social workers have been allowed to talk with children, particularly where severe allegations are involved. In these instances, an attorney, chosen by the parent, has been present. At other times, HSLDA had children stand by the door and greet the social worker, but not be subject to any questioning.
  5. Tell the official that you will call back after you speak with your attorney. Call your attorney or HSLDA, if you are a member.
  6. Ignore intimidations. Normally, social workers are trained to bluff. They will routinely threaten to acquire a court order, knowing full well that there is no evidence on which to secure an order. In 98 percent of the contacts that HSLDA handles, the threats turn out to be bluffs. However, it is always important to secure an attorney in these matters, since there are occasions where social workers are able to obtain a court order with flimsy evidence. HSLDA members should call our office in such situations.
  7. Offer to give the officials the following supporting evidence:
    1. a statement from your doctor, after he has examined your children, if the allegations involve some type of physical abuse;
    2. references from individuals who can vouch for your being good parents;
    3. evidence of the legality of your home school program. If your home school is an issue, HSLDA attorneys routinely assist member families by convincing social workers of this aspect of an investigation.
  8. Bring a tape recorder and/or witnesses to any subsequent meeting. Often times HSLDA will arrange a meeting between the social worker and our member family after preparing the parents on what to discuss and what not to discuss. The discussion at the meeting should be limited to the specific allegations and you should avoid telling them about past events beyond what they know. Usually, anonymous tips are all they have to go on, which is not sufficient to take someone to court. What you give them can and will be used against you.
  9. Inform your church, and put the investigation on your prayer chain. Over and over again, HSLDA has seen God deliver home schoolers from this scary scenario.
  10. Avoid potential situations that could lead to a child welfare investigation.
    1. a. Conduct public relations with your immediate neighbors and acquaintances regarding the legality and success of home schooling.
    2. Do not spank children in public.
    3. Do not spank someone else's child unless they are close Christian friends.
    4. Avoid leaving young children at home alone.

In order for a social worker to get a warrant to come and enter a home and interview children separately, he is normally required, by both statute and the U.S. Constitution, to prove that there is some "cause." This is a term that is synonymous with the term "probable cause". "Probable cause" or cause shown is reliable evidence that must be corroborated by other evidence if the tip is anonymous. In other words, an anonymous tip alone and mere suspicion is not enough for a social worker to obtain a warrant.

There have been some home-schooled families who have been faced with a warrant even though there was not probable cause. HSLDA has been able to overturn these in court so that the order to enter the home was never carried out. Home School Legal Defense Association is committed to defending every member family who is being investigated by social workers, provided the allegations involve home schooling. In instances when the allegations have nothing to do with home schooling, HSLDA will routinely counsel most member families on how to meet with the social worker and will talk to the social worker to try to resolve the situation. If it cannot be resolved, which it normally can be in most instances by HSLDA's involvement, the family is responsible for hiring their own attorney.

HSLDA is beginning to work with states to reform the child welfare laws to guarantee more freedom for parents and better protection for their parental rights. HSLDA will be sending out Alerts to its members in various states where such legislation is drafted and submitted as a bill.

For further information on how to deal with social workers, HSLDA recommends Home Schooling: The Right Choice, which was written with the intention of informing home school parents of their rights in order to prevent them from becoming a statistic. Federal statistics have shown that up to 60 percent of children removed from homes, upon later review, should never have been removed. The child welfare system is out of control, and we need to be prepared. To obtain The Right Choice or join the Home School Legal Defense Association, call 540-338-5600, or write HSLDA, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134.

VII. Department of Education Protocols

     During the last half of the 1990s, the Board of Directors of the Idaho Coalition of Home Educators (ICHE) heard persistent tales of educational neglect by home educators. Each year, professional educators and various members of the state legislature assured us that they knew or had heard of cases of terrible neglect among home schooling families. As we attended the Legislative "Pie Day", we repeatedly heard the same claims from liberal legislators and from personnel at the Idaho Department of Education. Their mantra: "We know that you people here at "Pie Day" are all doing a good job of teaching your children at home, but what about those children whose parents are uneducated themselves. They are keeping their children out of school so that they can work in the family business or so that they can baby sit the younger children in the family. We need some sort of registration and testing system to catch those children who are falling through the cracks and not receiving a real education."

     Those reports claimed that there were a significant number of children in the state whose parents claimed that they were teaching their children at home when they were, in fact, giving them no education at all. Dr. Robert Fontaine, the Accreditation and Elementary Services Coordinator at the Idaho Department of Education at the time, claimed that he personally received an average of two such reports each week.

     In its extensive experience with the home education community, ICHE had literally never encountered such a situation. But because these reports were almost always third or fourth-hand anecdotal accounts, they were extremely difficult to verify or refute. Nonetheless, ICHE wanted to know if those reports had merit. They also wanted to silence the false rumors concerning home education if they did not.

     Consequently, as the outcome of a meeting during the 2000 legislative session with Representative Wendy Jaquet (D-Ketchum), Dr. Michael Friend, and Dr. Robert Fontaine, ICHE agreed to set up an informal arrangement with the Idaho Department of Education. It was agreed that the department's Accreditation and Elementary Services Coordinator would serve as the conduit to pass to ICHE all such reports or complaints received by the department.

     Those reports would then be forwarded to former Representative Robert Forrey, an advisor to ICHE and a former employee of the Department of Education. Mr. Forrey agreed that he would personally investigate each situation brought to his attention to ascertain if the parents in question were having genuine difficulties in educating their children. If they were, it was agreed that ICHE would offer assistance to the family through the ICHE Regional Coordinator responsible for the region in which the family resided.

     With the wide array of excellent diagnostic tools and curricula available to home educators, an effective educational program could then be designed for the individual needs of the family having difficulty. If the parents were truly unwilling or incapable of providing competent instruction for their children, ICHE would encourage them to place the children into other private, parochial, or public school settings.

     This system was instigated in 2000. At the end of the first year, ICHE met with those who had requested that the system be set up in order to report on the first year's outcomes. The results: not a single complaint had even been forwarded to ICHE for investigation.

     State agencies then put out the word to all of the school districts in the state encouraging school district and law enforcement personnel to pass on all such complaints to the Accreditation and Elementary Services Coordinator at the Department of Education.

     Eventually, a cluster of twelve "complaints" was forwarded to ICHE in the second half of 2002. In 2003, the number of complaints forwarded to ICHE dropped back to just three. Each of those fifteen complaints was carefully investigated. The results of all of the reported cases for the entire four year life of this program to date, each of which was reported back to the Department of Education as promised, were as follows:

Outcome of Inquiry:No. of Situations*
Complaining party failed to respond to letters and calls:7
Complaint did not involve home educated child:6
Complaining party failed or refused to identify the family about whom the complaint was made2
Student was not the proper age to be subject to the compulsory school law:2
Complaining party or public official indicated that the situation was resolved or under control:2
Family and curriculum assessed and found legally adequate:1
Family and curriculum assessed and found not legally adequate:0

*Note that some complaints fell into more than one category.

     In short, the massive problems with home education perceived by the professional education community now appear not merely to have been overblown, but essentially nonexistent.

     This new information has provided ICHE with a tremendous tool to dissuade legislators of the need for registration and testing. It effectively counters the "what if" scenarios offered by the opponents of home education. As we have been invited to address groups exploring whether to seek registration and testing requirements for home educating families, this data, along with the remarkable academic test scores obtained by our students, tends to bring those efforts to a halt. It provides the assurance that a system is already in place to address the concerns that are being expressed.

     While this arrangement offers no assurance that abuse of our freedoms will not ever occur, it does provide hope that such a situation will be quickly discovered and remedied. In the mean time, the entire home schooling community in Idaho can be extremely proud of the remarkable job being done to train up a generation of intelligent and disciplined students.

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