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Massachusetts General Laws Relevant to Homeschooling

Read the History of Massachusetts Compulsory Attendance Law

Compulsory Attendance Statute: Chapter 76 Section 1

Note that the words "home education" do not appear in the statute. Homeschoolers are included in the "otherwise educated" category.In its simplest form, the law states:

Every child between the minimum and maximum ages established for school attendance by the board of education shall attend a public day school in said town, or some other day school approved by the school committee, but such attendance shall not be required of a child who is being otherwise instructed in a manner approved in advance by the superintendent or the school committee.

What standards do school officials use for approving the "otherwise educated"? The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1987 in the Charles decision determined that school officials could use the same standard used to evaluate private schools:

For the purposes of this section, school committees shall approve a private school when satisfied that the instruction in all the studies required by law equals in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town; but shall not withhold such approval on account of religious teaching.

(See statute with excerpted portions in context below.)

Subjects To Be Taught: Chapter 71

As the Charles decision states:

General Laws c. 71, Secs. 1, 2, and 3, list the subjects that must be taught in schools maintained by the towns throughout the Commonwealth. Specifically, Sec. 1 requires "instruction and training in orthography, reading, writing, the English language and grammar, geography, arithmetic, drawing, music, the history and constitution of the United States, the duties of citizenship, health education, physical education and good behavior."

Note that there is no requirement that all subjects must be taught all years or that any particular subject must be taught in any particular year.

Chapter 71, Section 1 on the Commonwealth's website. You may continue through to sections 2 and 3.

Chapter 76, Section 1 on the Commonwealth's website.

 

Chapter 76: Section 1: (Highlighted text indicates sections excerpted in selections above )

Section 1. Every child between the minimum and maximum ages established for school attendance by the board of education, except a child between fourteen and sixteen who meets the requirements for the completion of the sixth grade of the public school as established by said board and who holds a permit for employment in private domestic service or service on a farm, under section eighty-six of chapter one hundred and forty-nine, and is regularly employed thereunder for at least six hours per day, or a child between fourteen and sixteen who meets said requirements and has the written permission of the superintendent of schools of the town where he resides to engage in non-wage-earning employment at home, or a child over fourteen who holds a permit for employment in a cooperating employment, as provided in said section eighty-six, shall, subject to section fifteen, attend a public day school in said town, or some other day school approved by the school committee, during the number of days required by the board of education in each school year, unless the child attends school in another town, for said number of days, under sections six to twelve, inclusive, or attends an experimental school project established under an experimental school plan, as provided in section one G of chapter fifteen, but such attendance shall not be required of a child whose physical or mental condition is such as to render attendance inexpedient or impracticable subject to the provisions of section three of chapter seventy-one B or of a child granted an employment permit by the superintendent of schools when such superintendent determines that the welfare of such child will be better served through the granting of such permit, or of a child who is being otherwise instructed in a manner approved in advance by the superintendent or the school committee. The superintendent of schools may transfer to any specialized type of school on a full-time basis any child who possesses the educational qualifications enumerated in this section and in the opinion of the superintendent would be benefited by such transfer. The superintendent, or teachers in so far as authorized by him or by the school committee, may excuse cases of necessary absence for other causes not exceeding seven day sessions or fourteen half day sessions in any period of six months. Absences may also be permitted for religious education at such times as the school committee may establish; provided, that no public funds shall be appropriated or expended for such education or for transportation incidental thereto; and provided, further, that such time shall be no more than one hour each week. For the purposes of this section, school committees shall approve a private school when satisfied that the instruction in all the studies required by law equals in thoroughness and efficiency, and in the progress made therein, that in the public schools in the same town; but shall not withhold such approval on account of religious teaching, and, in order to protect children from the hazards of traffic and promote their safety, cities and towns may appropriate money for conveying pupils to and from any schools approved under this section.

 

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