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Official Requirements

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 Rulings

Related Questions:

Know what your school may require (and not require) of you. For an in-depth understanding of Massachusetts regulations, we suggest you:

1. Understand the Massachusetts Compulsory Attendance Law

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 to homeschoolers

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 guidelines

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: Thirteen Points

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.

District Policies

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

Massachusetts Home Learning Association

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