Even in a state as free as Idaho, sometimes the unthinkable happens. Sometimes a homeschool family will be reported to the Department of Health and Welfare for educational neglect or other accusations. Whether you are in your first year homeschooling, or are a seasoned veteran, being investigated by the DHW can be unsettling.
There are important steps to take to protect yourself and your family, both before and during an investigation.
1. Get Legal Protection
First of all, join HSLDA. This organization has been providing legal protection for homeschool families since 1983. Join today, before you have any legal issues arise. Your membership will provide a cushion of protection if your family is ever investigated for homeschool-related charges. An existing membership is ideal because you will be able to call an attorney immediately if you are called or visited by a social worker. HSLDA will help you navigate your initial contact with the DHW, and help ensure your rights are protected in your home. There are other benefits to you as well, such as early learning advice, special learners counseling, and high school guidance. Homeschool Idaho will provide you with a membership discount code on request: contact email@example.com.
2. Know the Law
Make sure you know Idaho homeschool law. Idaho Code 33-202 defines the right of parents to educate their own children at home. This section of code excludes homeschool parents from the rigid schedule of public schools, but it does require parents to teach “subjects commonly and usually taught in the public schools.” Homeschool education takes many forms, and often does not look like traditional classroom schooling. Idaho does not oversee homeschooling, and homeschool families do not register with nor report to the state. For more information about laws pertaining to homeschooling in Idaho, visit our law page.
3. Know the Process
Make sure you understand the process by which the Dept. of Health and Welfare investigates reports. Reports to the DHW frequently stem from a misunderstanding of what homeschooling in Idaho looks like. Occasionally, reports can be malicious. Rarely, reports are about genuine cases of neglect or abuse. In all cases, the DHW investigates to determine the legitimacy of the report. (All Idaho adults are mandatory reporters of suspected abuse, including educational neglect, and no one should ignore signs of harm to children.) In 2010, Homeschool Idaho worked with the Idaho DHW to create guidelines for fair investigations of complaints against homeschool families. It is vitally important for homeschool parents to read these guidelines, and even have them printed out for referral. DHW investigates to determine if any laws have been broken, so knowing what Idaho’s homeschool laws are BEFORE you are investigated will help you protect your rights.
4. Know Your Rights
Know your rights if you are visited in person by the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from searches without legal warrants. You do not have to give access to your house or children if they do not have a court order. However, this may mean that the social worker will return later with law enforcement or a court order. Be aware that social workers could have the legal authority to interview your minor children without parental consent, and without the parent being present. The interview could take place at a school, daycare, clinic, hospital, police station, or other location, even at your house if the child is home alone. Consult an Idaho family law attorney for information specific to your case.
5. Comply with the Law
Make sure you are complying with Idaho homeschool law. Even though we do have tremendous freedom in Idaho, there is still a requirement to teach “subjects commonly and usually taught in the public schools.” (See Idaho code 33-202.) If you are visited by a social worker as part of an investigation of educational neglect, you will need to be able to “show refuting evidence (consisting of either curriculum, test scores, lesson plans, or description of educational efforts, etc.) or demonstrate that the information from the referral is not credible.” You should be prepared to do this even if you are not using formal textbooks or curricula in your homeschool. (See our Health and Welfare Guidelines Page.)
6. Know the Definition of Homeschooling
Determine if you are legally considered to be homeschooling. If you are enrolled in a public school program, such as Tech Trep with Oneida School District, you are not eligible for legal protection from HSLDA, and you are not protected by Idaho homeschool law. In those cases, you must comply with public school requirements. Do not attempt to enroll in a public school program to attempt to validate your homeschool, especially if you intend to remove your child after the investigation closes. This could jeopardize your credibility in future contacts, and harm your ability to continue homeschooling.
7. Don’t Exceed Requirements
Finally, do not go along with illegal search requests out of fear. Calmly state your position. Step outside your home to speak with social workers. Close but do not lock your door. Call your HSLDA attorney if you are a member. If you are not an HSLDA member, have the number of a family law attorney available to consult. Do not give more information about your homeschool than is absolutely necessary to show compliance with Idaho code 33-202. Do not give false information to social workers.