How to Move Away

Sometimes homeschoolers in New York State ask other homeschoolers what they’re supposed to do if they’re moving out of their school district (or “megadistrict”, in the case of New York City).

And sometimes the answers the parents get can lead them into unnecessary trouble.

They are often advised not to tell the person to whom they’ve been sending their homeschool paperwork what town, city, state, or foreign country they’re moving to, much less their new address. (Though this is rarer, they may even be told that they don’t have to give any notice at all that they are moving away – because, “You don’t have to do anything that’s not in the homeschool regulations!”)

A lot of strife and strain and drama has resulted (in NYC, at least, and there have been occasional rumors of trouble in other places). Sometimes PAHSI (Partnership for Accurate Homeschooling Information) has had to pick up the pieces.

In practical terms, it’s important to understand that the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) has its own investigative personnel, and can also pass the matter on to the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), or to its equivalent in the place they suspect the family has moved to (for example, in other parts of NYS it may be Child Protective Services, or CPS).

We’re not impressed by the reasoning of people who say that the NYC Central Office of Home Schooling (that is, “Homeschooling” – we prefer the one-word version) will be powerless if the family moves away without leaving a forwarding address.

We’d like to ask these people whether they really mean to advise parents to swear to secrecy all neighbors, acquaintances, local shopkeepers, remaining family members, former landlord (if any), new owner of the house (if any), former utility providers, and the U.S. Postal Service. (Unfortunately, we often only hear about what the family was advised to do after complications result.)

Years ago, the NYC DOE began requiring proofs of compulsory school age and of NYC residence from any families newly homeschooling in NYC (and whose kids weren’t already in the DOE computer systems from having previously attended a NYC public school). More on that in a future blog post – it was a needlessly controversial move at the time, but is now a well-established policy.

We don’t know whether the situation is similar in many other parts of NYS, but if you move out of NYC, the New York City Central Office of Home Schooling is going to want proof that you did.

If parents refuse to give it to them, or just don’t bother to, that office has been known to try to track the family down. And, from their point of view, why wouldn’t they? They’ve been amassing from the family a series of paperwork that claims a certain NYC address, and now the parent claims to be moving out of their jurisdiction (or, in an extreme case, just stops sending in paperwork). Why wouldn’t that office need to cover itself (and, in certain rare circumstances, protect the kids) by confirming that the family really did move away?

With all the bellyaching that goes on about the “onerous” (we think “doable”) NYS paperwork requirements, there might well be a few parents who decide one fine day to stop sending in paperwork, and who figure that falsely claiming to have moved away will get that office off their backs. Or there might be more sinister motives – which all of you can imagine, and which are worth consideration in a city with 1.1 million public school kids and nearly 3,000 homeschooled kids, where neighbors don’t necessarily know each other or look out for each others’ children.

Since NYC homeschooled kids are in the NYC DOE computer systems, there is a set of discharge codes (originally written with public school students in mind) that the NYC Central Office of Home Schooling has been instructed to use (we are talking about real office people here, who can get in trouble if they discharge a kid without using the right code).

You can read about “reasons for discharge” in the New York City Regulations of the Chancellor, at this link (it’s the current version of A-240, titled “Reasons for Discharging Students” – please be sure to go to the link itself if you are reading this long after we put up this blog post, in case the wording changes in the future):

http://docs.nycenet.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-15/A-240.pdf

The “Abstract” at the top says, in part, “Students may only be discharged from a school register during the course of the school year for legally acceptable reasons, as described in this regulation.” The document then continues:

1. REASONS FOR DISCHARGE

A student enrolled in a public school may be discharged only for one of the following reasons: [it goes on to list eighteen reasons].

Note that, in the absence of a specific discharge code for kids who had been homeschooling in NYC and who now are moving elsewhere (whether to homeschool or to attend a school), the obvious thing for an office person to do is to rely on the discharge codes for NYC public school students who are moving away. (What else would you expect the person sitting in front of the computer to do?) 

The “reason for discharge” that the NYC Central Office of Home Schooling most properly uses for homeschooled kids moving out of New York City is “1.2”, which reads:

1.2 Students who move from New York City may be discharged. The school is responsible for obtaining a new street address, city and state, if the student is moving within the United States and Puerto Rico. If the new location is to another country, the city and country is required. If the student’s residence outside of New York City is not confirmed within 10 days, an attendance investigation must be initiated to ensure that the student has moved.

If a homeschooling parent whose family is moving out of NYC doesn’t give the Central Office what the above paragraph describes, the Central Office may turn to the following paragraph for its next step (again, these are real office people who are required to enter a discharge code in the computer):

1.11 An “Address Unknown” discharge can be authorized only by an attendance teacher following an extensive investigation that has been documented on Form 407. The District Attendance Supervisor must review and sign Form 407 in order to authorize the “Address Unknown” discharge. A follow-up Form 407 automatically generates after 30 days in order to ensure a re-investigation of the discharge.

Form 407 is the form for “chronic truancy”, among other things. (Would you really want a form like that to be filed for your child, with all the automatic computer alerts and hassles that will then follow?)

This is what the Central Office is going by when it asks for proof of a change in address for a homeschooling family that is moving out of NYC: 

2. VERIFICATION OF REASON FOR DISCHARGE

2.1 The school must verify the reason for all discharges. Verification may be obtained by information from other schools, an interview of the parent/guardian, a review of pertinent records, or authorization from an attendance teacher.

2.2 The school must document the discharge information on the student’s Cumulative Record Card and on the Student Office Card. File the appropriate documentation in the Cumulative Record Folder. The discharge transaction is then entered on the ATS system.

The ATS is the Attendance Tracking System (there are other NYC DOE computer systems, too).

We’re not going to give lots of examples here of how the discharge procedures play out differently depending on what kind of homeschool laws or regulations exist in the particular place the family moves to. We’re mostly just giving you the NYC discharge procedures and describing the general perspective of the NYC Central Office, so you can decide what to do.

But we will say that, with few exceptions, we encourage parents who contact us for advice to go ahead and provide the proof of change in address. One exception might be if the family is moving to Germany, where homeschooling is under attack. (In 2010, a German homeschooling family was granted asylum in the U.S. We’ll just give you the name “Uwe Romeike” so you can google it, since there have been further developments and any link we post may become outdated soon.) We might suggest that a family in that situation not move directly from NYC to Germany, but move somewhere else for a substantial period of time as a preliminary step.

If the NYC Central Office of Home Schooling tries to tell you that you have to give them more than proof of the change in address (for example, if you are both moving out of NYC and enrolling your child in a school, and they want you to give them the name of the school so that they can call there and make sure the child shows up), that’s where you might technically be justified in pointing out that the reason for discharge is “1.2” (see the quoted text above) and that it only requires confirmation of a change in address. You might then decide to refuse to give them additional information like the name of the new school. We can imagine only very limited circumstances in which doing so makes a lot of sense, but you’re the one who will have to decide whether that fight is worth fighting for your family.

If you found this blog post informative, please post the link widely. If you have information on any other places in NYS (besides NYC) that require proof from parents who say they are moving away (or if you have anything else to tell us), please write to us at comments@pahsi.net .