In Massachusetts, there is not one simple, short answer to the question
of what your local district may require of you. The answers are contained
in two court cases from the Commonwealth's highest court.
Overview of requirements: Court
Know what your school may require (and not require)
of you. For an in-depth understanding of Massachusetts regulations, we
1. Understand the Massachusetts Compulsory Attendance
In the United States, rules governing education are generally determined at the state level. In Massachusetts, the General Laws contain provisions that require school attendance of all children between the ages of six and sixteen, and also prescribe what subjects are to be taught.
Massachusetts General Laws - portions relevant
Lawmaking in Massachusetts
- background information on the Commonwealth's website
Ages to Begin and Stop Reporting to the
Local School District - MHLA information on age-related reporting
2. Know what "Charles" is
The 1987 Care and Protection of Charles decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (SJC) provided parents and school officials with guidelines for the process of approval of home education. The town of Canton filed a petition for care and protection, with respect to education, of two homeschooled children. The details of the case are spelled out in the decision itself. The Court, after providing guidelines by which school officials might evaluate home education plans, required Canton and the parents to "proceed expeditiously in a serious effort to resolve the matter by agreement." Since 1987, homeschooling parents and school officials have been guided by the Charles decision.
The Charles decision of the SJC
Perspectives on the Charles decision:
About the Supreme Judicial Court -- background information on the Commonwealth's website
3. Know what "Brunelle" is
The Charles decision left the door open on the question of whether
or not home visits might be required as a condition of approval of a
home education plan. In 1998, in the Brunelle vs. Lynn Public Schools,
that question was settled: home visits could not be deemed "essential"
in determining if education was taking place; therefore, home visits
could not be required as a condition of approval. (The Court did not
exclude the possibility that such visits might be required in exceptional
cases.) In this decision the Court acknowledges that " while the
State can insist that the child's education be moved along in a way
which can be objectively measured, it cannot apply institutional standards
to this non-institutionalized setting."
The Brunelle decision
4. Know the role of your local superintendent and school commmittee
In Massachusetts, local school districts set their own policies on home education. These policies are not laws, but rather tools for the administrative convenience of school officials. See above to understand what the General Laws and the Court's decisions indicate about what school officials may and may not require.
5. Read Information for Superintendents
Information for Superintendents is a 14 page document aimed
at providing information for Superintendents (and for homeschoolers
who are dealing with school officials). It represents a "common
sense explanation of Massachusetts regulations."A good summary
of the General Laws and the relevant court decisions
Information for Superintendents