Homeschooling in Massachusetts

State Laws

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Massachusetts Laws Regulating Home Education
 Summaries and Explanations of Massachusetts Homeschooling Laws
 Massachusetts Statutes
 Case Law & Legal Opinions

Summaries and Explanations of Massachusetts Homeschooling Laws Back to Top
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Frequently Given Answers
Some of the basic questions and answers asked by parents considering homeschooling in Massachusetts.
Homeschool Guidelines at a Glance
A discussion of the laws regulating home education in Massachusetts, including school authority oversight, approval and evaluation, and responsibilities of school authorities and parents.
Homeschool Policies in Massachusetts: An Overview
AHEM
AHEM offers this clarification of the role of homeschool policies in towns in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Home School Laws from HSLDA
HSLDA
The Home School Legal Defense Association provides a brief summary of the homeschooling laws in Massachusetts. Includes a link to a legal analysis of laws relating to homeschooling in Massachusetts.
Official Requirements for Homeschooling in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, there is not one simple, short answer to the question of what your local district may require of you. This is a brief look at the official requirements to homeschool in Massachusetts.
Summary of Guidelines for Home Education in Massachusetts
A summary of what school officials may consider and may not consider when dealing with homeschoolers in their districts.
The Role of School Policies and Forms
Home education policies are not laws nor contracts between schools and homeschoolers. Rather, they are tools for the administrative convenience of school officials. School districts are not required to have policies, but are free to deal with homeschoolers on a case-by-case basis.

Massachusetts Statutes Back to Top
Chapter 71: Section 1 Maintenance; double sessions; subjects; twelve-month school year
Section 1. Every town shall maintain, for at least the number of days required by the board of education in each school year unless specifically exempted as to any one year by said board, a sufficient number of schools for the instruction of all children who may legally attend a public school therein. No town shall hold double sessions in any public school, if in any other public school of comparable grade levels in such town there are vacant spaces for more than thirty-five children, the number of such vacant spaces to be computed without exceeding a maximum of thirty-five children to a classroom. The board of education may suspend the application of the preceding sentence in a particular town for a limited period. Such schools shall be taught by teachers of competent ability and good morals, and shall give 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. Instruction in health education shall include, but shall not be limited to: consumer health, ecology, community health, body structure and function, safety, nutrition, fitness and body dynamics, dental health, emotional development, and training in the administration of first aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The department of education shall pay for the cost of any such instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation; provided, however, that a school committee may by majority vote decide that such instruction shall not be offered. In connection with physiology and hygiene, instruction as to the effects of alcoholic drinks and of stimulants, including tobacco, and narcotics on the human system, as to tuberculosis and its prevention, as to detection and prevention of breast and uterine cancer, and as to fire safety, including instruction in the flammable qualities of certain fabrics, and as to the prevention and treatment of burn injuries, shall be given to all pupils in all schools under public control, except schools maintained solely for instruction in particular subject areas. The department of education is hereby directed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Center for Global Education, to establish a task force for the purpose of developing a model curriculum for grades kindergarten through twelve in global education and international studies. A copy of said curriculum shall be sent to the superintendent of schools for each school district in the commonwealth. The department shall encourage each school district to implement said curriculum, or a variation thereof. No pupil shall be required to take or participate in instruction on disease, its symptoms, development and treatment, whose parent or guardian shall object thereto in writing on the grounds such instruction conflicts with his sincerely held religious beliefs, and no pupil so exempt shall be penalized by reason of such exemption. Such other subjects as the school committee considers expedient may be taught in the public schools. The board of education shall adopt rules and regulations for the establishment of a twelve-month school year. Any city, town or school district by vote of its school committee may maintain and operate on a continuous twelve-month basis a sufficient number of schools for the instruction of all children who may legally attend a public school therein in accordance with such rules and regulations. Nothing herein contained shall be construed as to authorize said board to require the establishment of a twelve-month school year in any city, town or school district the school committee of which has not voted to establish, maintain and operate such a twelve-month school year. The advisory council on violence prevention established by section 1G of chapter 15 shall recommend for approval by the board of education a model curriculum for grades kindergarten through 12 in education programs on violence prevention for the purpose of informing students of the harmful effects of teenage violence, weapons and illegal drug use and of promoting community and social responsibility. The department of education shall send a copy of said curriculum to the superintendent of schools for each school district in the commonwealth. The department shall encourage school districts to implement said curriculum or a variation thereof.
Chapter 71: Section 2 Subjects of instruction; history and civics.
Section 2. In all public elementary and high schools American history and civics, including the constitution of the United States, the declaration of independence and the bill of rights, and in all public high schools the constitution of the commonwealth and local history and government, shall be taught as required subjects for the purpose of promoting civic service and a greater knowledge thereof, and of fitting the pupils, morally and intellectually, for the duties of citizenship.
Chapter 71: Section 3 Physical education.
Section 3. Physical education shall be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students in the public schools for the purpose of promoting the physical well-being of such students. Instruction in physical education may include calisthenics, gymnastics and military drill; but no pupil shall be required to take part in any military exercise if his parent or guardian is of any religious denomination conscientiously opposed to bearing arms, or is himself so opposed, and the school committee is so notified in writing; and no pupil shall be required to take part in physical education exercises if a licensed physician certifies in writing that in his opinion such physical education exercises would be injurious to the pupil.
Chapter 76: Section 1 Requirements and exceptions.
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. Except as herein provided, pupils who attend approved private schools of elementary and high school grades shall be entitled to the same rights and privileges as to transportation to and from school as are provided by law for pupils of public schools and shall not be denied such transportation because their attendance is in a school which is conducted under religious auspices or includes religious instruction in its curriculum. Each school committee shall provide transportation for any pupil attending such an approved private school within the boundaries of the school district, provided, however, that the distance between said pupil's residence and the private school said pupil attends exceeds two miles or such other minimum distance as may be established by the school committee for transportation of public school students. Any school committee which is required by law to transport any pupil attending an approved private school beyond the boundaries of the school district shall not be required to do so further than the distance from the residence of such pupil to the public school he is entitled to attend. The school committee of each town shall provide for and enforce the school attendance of all children actually residing therein in accordance herewith. The terms ""permit for employment'' and ""employment permit'', as used in this chapter, shall mean an employment permit referred to in section eighty-six of chapter one hundred and forty-nine.

Case Law & Legal Opinions Back to Top
Brunelle, in Brief
A summary of the Brunelle decision and its effect on home education in Massachusetts.
Care and Protection of Ivan & another (1999)
In the Ivan case, the family was brought to court by the school for refusal to provide "bare essentials of their educational plan and to allow for any evaluation…" The court placed the children in legal custody of the Department of Social Services, ruling that "…it was always open to the parents to work out an accommodation of their interests along the lines suggested by school authorities and to resolve the matter by agreement. However, the judge found that the parents never filed educational plans that were minimally adequate within the guidelines set forth in Charles." Since this case concerns a family who refused to comply with Charles, its findings and rulings do not apply to families who are complying. As a result, it does not have a significant impact on most homeschooling families, who are providing schools with the requirements as outlined in Charles.
Charles Decision: Care and Protection of Charles (1987)
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.
Charles, in Brief
A summary of the Charles decision and its effort on home education in Massachusetts.
Commonwealth v. Frank Roberts (1893)
As this decision indicates, Frank Roberts sought to have a private day school approved in Fitchburg. The school committee refused approval of the private day school. Subsequently, it seems, Mr. Roberts taught his daughter, Mary, at home. He was prosecuted for not causing his child to attend school. When his case was heard before the superior court in Worcester, Mr. Roberts was not allowed to introduce evidence that Mary was, in fact, receiving an education. Upon appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court set aside the guilty verdict for Mr. Roberts, saying "the evidence which was excluded should have been admitted."
Court Rulings on Home Education in Massachusetts: Overview
A summary of the effects the Charles Decision and the Brunelle case have on homeschooling families in Massachusetts. Lists thirteen perspectives on the Charles and Brunelle decisions.
In the Matter of Johnna M. Searles (1990)
In this District Court Opinion, the judge denied the request of school authorities that the child be ordered to enroll in school pending the approval of the home education program, stating such an order would be "premature at the present time." She stated that the interests of all parties "are best served if they proceed expeditiously in a serious effort to resolve the matter by agreement."
Michael Brunelle et al., vs. Lynn Public Schools (1998)
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."
Perchemlides v. Frizzle (1978)
In Perchemlides v. Frizzle (1978), a Massachusetts court upheld the right of the nonreligious Perchemlides family to homeschool their young son. The court concluded that "the Massachusetts compulsory attendance statue might well be constitutionally infirm if it did not exempt students whose parents prefer alternative forms of education."
Pierce v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary
In Pierce v. Society of the Sisters, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "the fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments of this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the creature of the state."
Ten Points from the Supreme Judicial Court's Decisions
A discussion of the Supreme Judicial Court's decisions (Charles and Brunelle) that affect homeschoolers.


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