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Home-school advocates seek records privacy

Quirk in law makes data public

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Report cards for public school students in Minnesota are generally private -- something between students and their teachers and parents.

But report cards for home-schooled students are an open book if they've been shared with local public school districts, as state law often requires.

Any data collected about home-schooled students by public schools is public information, the state says, and is available to the public on request.

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This quirk in the law, which is applied inconsistently from district to district, has upset home-school advocates and they are now trying to change it.

By law, parents must submit to their local school district a statement of intent to home-school each year. The statement includes a student's name, address, instructional calendar and immunization records. Parents also must supply proof that their children have taken a national standardized achievement test each year.

And, if parents don't hold a teaching license, they must file quarterly report cards for each child with their districts.

Home-schoolers say they just became aware of the privacy issue, which sprang from a November 2000 Department of Administration ruling in a Bemidji case. And now they are mobilizing to win the same privacy protections enjoyed by public school students for their own children.

Becky Lundy of Plymouth home-schools her four sons. She leads a home-school support group in the Wayzata school district, and has alerted the group's 30 families that their children's information isn't secret.

"I think the principle of it bothers me the most -- the sense of being treated as second class because we're not in public school," she said. "I think a student is a student and there ought to be the same treatment."

Minnesota home-school parents say they don't want their phone numbers made available to telemarketers eager to tap into the pockets of the state's 15,000 home-schoolers. And they don't want their children's quarterly report cards and education plans sitting out for just anyone to review.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia advocacy group, is trying to have the advisory opinion reversed. Failing that, it will take the issue to the Minnesota Legislature.

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