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Parents use homeschooling to avoid truancy charges

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(MGN Online graphic)

by Katy Urban, KOTA TV News reporter

Every year, 5th grade teacher Jamie Snyder has students in her class who have to play catch up due to truancy.  “It’s hard with 30 students to spend that extra time, like in math, to catch them up when they’re 5 days, 3 days or more behind,” Snyder said.

In Rapid City, school administrators have taken a number of proactive approaches to promote good attendance, but sometimes their efforts aren’t enough and the Pennington County State’s Attorneys Office has to get involved. Still, some parents have found a way to avoid the legal repercussions:  they homeschool. “There is sometimes a movement for parents to come in and as soon as truancy procedures start then they’ll put in a homeschool application,” Superintendent Dr. Tim Mitchell said.

In South Dakota a parent can fill out a homeschool application and take their child out of school the next day. “All they’ve done is fill out an application and we’ve sent it to the state and they become homeschooled – that’s all it take in South Dakota,” Dr. Mitchell said.

While there is a statute that requires homeschool parents to keep educational records, the school must have probable cause to check them. “We have to have some sort of a complaint that has to be investigated,” Dr. Mitchell continued.

Since the State’s Attorneys Office began actively working truancy cases, homeschool numbers have gone up.  In the 2007-2008 school year, 412 students in the district were homeschooled. This year, there are 542 students on the homeschool log.

While it seems current laws allow for the abuse, Dr. Mitchell says district attendance records are improving. “Just recently actually we have seen some of the highest actual attendance records of our registered children, and we do believe that’s because we’ve taken a tough stance on truancy,” Dr. Mitchell said.

Dr. Mitchell made it clear that there are many homeschool parents and non-accredited institutions in the district that do a great job of educating kids, unfortunately there are some who may be using it to avoid getting in trouble.
KOTA Territory News

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