in the Northeast: Rhode Island
Island and Massachusetts share the distinction of being the only
two states left which require approval in order to homeschool.
Rhode Island's compulsory attendance statute, § 16-19-1,
requires that children between the ages of 6 and 16 attend school
"or a course of at-home instruction approved by the school
committee of the town where the child resides" (General Laws
of Rhode Island § 16-19-1(a)). So, like Massachusetts, homeschoolers
in Rhode Island report to their local districts. Another similarity
to Massachusetts is that local districts have varying requirements
of homeschoolers from town to town.
Island law states that the period of at-home instruction be "substantially
equal" (General Laws of Rhode Island § 16-19-2) to that
of the public school. Rhode Island law also requires that parents
keep an attendance register, and that they teach certain subjects
"substantially to the same extent as these subjects are required
to be taught in the public schools and that the teaching
shall be thorough and efficient" (§ 16-19-2). This part
of the law is similar to the equal "in thoroughness and efficiency"
(Care and Protection of Charles & others,
399 Mass. 324 (1987) at 337) requirement in Massachusetts.
However, in Massachusetts we do not have any specific requirement
regarding attendance in the home school, and we are not required
to keep attendance records.
In RI, if the plan is not approved, the parent has the right to
appeal the action to the department of elementary and secondary
education. The commissioner of education schedules a hearing and
decides the appeal at no cost to the parties involved. According
to the law, the decision made by the Department of Education (DOE)
at the hearing is final (§ 16-19-2). This is quite different
from Massachusetts, where if a homeschooling plan is not approved
and the school wishes to pursue the matter, the school must take
legal action in the courts and consequently assume the burden
of proving either that the plan is not equal in thoroughness and
efficiency to that of the public school, or that what the school
is asking the family to provide meets the standard of "essential"
in regard to assuring the state interest in the child's education.
There have been some rulings by the Commissioner of Education
that affect homeschooling in Rhode Island. Much of these decisions
involve fine points of evaluation methods and the nitty-gritty
of homeschool oversight. None of the rulings change the compulsory
So, while Rhode Island and Massachusetts are similar in that both
require approval of homeschooling by the local district, there
are differences. The DOE is not at all involved in homeschooling
in Massachusetts, unlike in Rhode Island where the board of regents
makes final decisions on homeschooling plans in question. Also,
in Rhode Island the parent must appeal the disapproval of the
plan, while in Massachusetts the burden shifts to the school if
a plan is disapproved.
about the Charles decision in layman's terms, see "Law
Made Easy: Charles, in Brief," AHEM News, v. 1,
n. 2, Winter 2004, p. 9.
to Law Made Easy.
information on this website does not constitute legal advice;
it is provided for informational purposes only.