The following information is provided for general purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Laws change and interpretations differ. It is suggested that you read the full text of the law yourself and consult an Oklahoma attorney, if necessary, for legal advice specific to your family homeschooling situation.
Homeschooling in Oklahoma has very few legal restrictions and is still open to interpretation. The accuracy of these interpretations have not been determined in a court of law unless specified. The references below are some of the sources upon which Oklahoma homeschooling rights are based. Full text is available where noted.
The Statutes quoted are from the 1998 edition of the Oklahoma State Statutes
unless otherwise noted. Statutes may be amended in subsequent years through the
legislative system. All efforts will be made to update any changes, but if you
find it necessary, you can investigate these on your own, at the
Oklahoma Attorney General's web site. The "Oklahoma School Laws,"
including Statutes that apply to education in Oklahoma, may be accessed and read
in full context at the State Department of Education's
web site. That site also includes
Oklahoma Court decisions that are relevant to education in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Constitution Article XIII
Section 4 Compulsory school attendance
The Legislature shall provide for the compulsory attendance at some public or other school, unless other means of education are provided, of all the children in the State who are sound in mind and body, between the ages of eight and sixteen years, for at least three months in each year. (Emphasis added.)
For homeschoolers, the key words in this paragraph are "unless other means of education are provided." Learning at home is another means of education.
Statutes passed by our legislature over the years appear to be in conflict with the Oklahoma Constitution and currently read:
Neglect or refusal to compel child to attend school - Exceptions
It shall be unlawful for a parent, guardian, or other person having custody of a child who is over the age of five (5) years, and under the age of eighteen (18) years, to neglect or refuse to cause or compel such child to attend and comply with the rules of some public, private or other school, . . . . . or unless other means of education are provided for the full term the schools of the district are in session.
As you can see, the ages have changed and the phrase, "for the full term the
schools of the district are in session," was added. Public schools are
required to be in session for 180 days per year--allowing five "inservice" days
within that--for a total of 175 days of "classroom instruction." (70
O.S.1-109) While this implies that homeschoolers are required to
maintain a learning schedule of the same length (175 days), it has not been
interpreted to mean they are required to be in school the same days and hours as
the public schools. Some school districts may tell new homeschoolers that they
must have an educational plan (curriculum) in place prior to beginning
homeschooling, but there is no legal basis for that request. Private schools
across Oklahoma set their own hours, days, schedules, and curriculums.
Under Oklahoma law, homeschoolers enjoy the same rights.
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An Attorney General's Opinion, No. 73-129, was issued in response to four questions submitted by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In it, the Constitution, the Statutes, and several court cases were quoted to answer the Superintendent's questions. Here is an excerpt from that document:
The Oklahoma Compulsory Attendance Statute does not require that a private school be accredited by the State Department of Education or that a private tutor hold an Oklahoma teaching certificate so long as the private instruction is supplied in good faith and is equivalent in fact to that afforded by the State. (Emphasis added.)
A board of education is not required to furnish textbooks or other materials to a child residing in the district not attending a district-operated school.
It goes on to say:
"Whether such independent facilities for education, outside of the public schools, are supplied in good faith and whether they are equivalent to those afforded by the state, is a question of fact for the jury, and not a question of law for the court." Wright v. State, Okla., 209 P. 179 (1922) (Emphasis added.)
This Attorney General's Opinion means that Oklahoma laws should not define these qualifications any more specifically. If necessary, it would be up to a judge or jury to weigh the issues of "in good faith" and "equivalent to that provided by the state." The wording also suggests that the burden of proof rests with the state; a family is presumed to provide an equivalent education unless and until the state proves otherwise.
The point of these Attorney General's Opinions seems to be that homeschooling is not to be used as a cover for truancy. Because the actions of each individual homeschooling family ultimately impact the legal interpretations of homeschooling in Oklahoma, it is hoped that homeschoolers carefully consider this parental responsibility.
There is no specific definition that exists for "equivalency" in Oklahoma. In New Jersey, which has a similar law, it has been determined that "equivalency" applies only to general curriculum content, not equivalency of outcome or quality of instruction. (State v. Massa; 95 NJ Super.382.)
In order to ascertain whether the education provided is "equivalent to that afforded by the state," it might be helpful to look at the Oklahoma Statute that legislates the subjects that must be covered in the public school system. (70 O.S. 11-103)
The statute says that courses of instruction shall be those that are necessary to ensure:
In summary, "equivalent to that provided by the state" has been interpreted
many different ways by many different people, but that phrase has not been
defined legally in the Oklahoma courts or legislative body. Each family must
"in good faith" decide for themselves whether they are providing
learning opportunities that are at least as good as those provided by the public
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In assessing "equivalent to that afforded by the state," it is also helpful to know what the public school system considers a "school day." Regulations pertaining to homeschooling are quoted previously and are not so specific. The Constitution has this to say about the definition of a public "school day." (70 O.S. 1-111)
"A school day for any group of pupils shall consist of not less than six (6) hours devoted to school activities...."
"...not more than one (1) school day shall be counted for attendance purposes in any 24-hour period."
"Pupils absent from school in which they are regularly enrolled may be considered as being in attendance if the reason for such absence is to participate in scheduled school activities under the direction and supervision of a regular member of the faculty."
Though it has never been defined in terms of homeschooling, this might be interpreted to mean any day in which the homeschooled "pupil" is under the supervision of their parent or guardian (who believes learning is taking place) may be considered a day of attendance for legal purposes. In fact, what is "compulsory" for public school students is "attendance," not "education."
The Department of Education has acknowledged that for students who are enrolled in public-school "homebound" programs (for long-term illness that prevents regular public school attendance), three hours of one-on-one instruction per week is considered to be "equivalent" for their purposes.
Most homeschoolers find that it doesn't take nearly as much time to cover subjects as it does in a formal school, since the parents are able to provide individualized attention without many distractions. Younger homeschooled children typically spend very little time in formalized studies; older children will spend more time.
While there is no reporting system in Oklahoma for homeschoolers, it is sometimes recommended that Oklahoma families keep some kind of record of the type of education being provided and each child's progress for at least 175 days of the year. Keeping formal records is not specifically required of homeschoolers (defined in the Constitution as providing "other means of education") according to Oklahoma law 70 O.S. 10-106, but in the rare event that a family is contacted by a truant officer, proof of meeting the minimum requirements of the law (i.e. "in good faith," and "equivalency") may be helpful to avoid conflicts. For various ways to do this, please see HERO's FAQ on record-keeping.
There are several Oklahoma Statutes that apply to truancy, but few of them deal specifically with homeschooling. Though it would be very rare for truancy charges to be filed against a homeschooling family, it is possible. The District Attorney's office has stated that they don't have the time or inclination to pursue legitimate homeschooling families. A family who is following the guidelines of the Oklahoma laws as outlined above has nothing to fear from a truancy investigation.
Until a child is officially withdrawn from public school, he or she does fall under the jurisdiction of the public school truancy laws. If a child accumulates the specified number of unexcused absences prior to official withdrawal, the school has satisfactory reason to report a family for truancy. Such family is subject to all fines and penalties for truancy prior to the day they officially withdrew from public school. For more information about withdrawing your child from school please check HERO's FAQs.
Some Oklahoma Statutes which deal with truancy and which may affect some homeschoolers include the following:
70 O.S. 10-109 states that students being schooled at home may not be detained by an attendance officer for suspected truancy. It also states that temporary custody of a suspected truant may not be used as a means to investigate "criminal matters."
10 O.S. 7003-5.5 states that truancy alone is not grounds for termination of parental rights.
Details about other specific truancy laws may be found on the
Oklahoma Attorney General's web site by doing a search for "truancy" in
Oklahoma State Statutes.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) reports that they have no policies regarding homeschooling. DHS is not supposed to investigate truancy, nor can they enter a home based solely on an allegation of truancy or educational neglect. Homeschoolers are subject to the same laws and scrutiny as anyone else when it comes to DHS--but not more scrutiny based only on the fact that they homeschool.
However, that fact that this is the policy does not mean DHS will follow it. They may, in fact, use any explanation they wish in order to enter a home and once they do, they may use anything they find to develop their case. A family may decide it is in their best interests to refuse entry to any DHS worker or truant officer unless a warrant is presented. At that time, a lawyer's advice and/or presence may be prudent. It is highly recommended that DHS be denied entry to your home without a warrant and an attorney be immediately consulted.
Homeschooling families have nothing to hide from government authorities, but the Department of Human Services may use subjective means to evaluate a family. If a particular case worker believes that homeschooling is detrimental to normal childhood development, it may affect the way they look at other things in the home.
A 1998 law (47 O.S. 6-107.3) set new standards for children between the ages of 16 and 18 who apply for an Oklahoma driver's license. Homeschoolers are affected by this law. The law states (in summary) that children between the ages of 16 and 18 who wish to apply for a driver's license must provide proof of school enrollment and pass a criterion-referenced reading test at the eighth-grade level.
Homeschoolers must provide proof of enrollment for their child in the form of a written, signed statement attesting that the child is receiving instruction by other means pursuant to Section 4 of Article XIII of the Oklahoma Constitution. This document will be provided by the Driver's License Testing Station.
Homeschoolers may make arrangements to take the reading test at various locations including community colleges, private schools, and vo-techs. Some of the tests that are "approved" by the state include: ACT, SAT, BASIS, CTBS, GMRT, ITBS, MAT7, Nelson-Denny, SRA Achievement Series and Survey of Basic Skills, Comprehensive Testing Program III, ITED, Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (CRT), STAR, TAP, TABE, and TAAS.
Employed children under the age of 16 are regulated under 40 O.S. 79 in the Oklahoma Labor laws. In part, that law says that the parent or guardian of a homeschooled child must provide a "schooling certificate" to any employer of that child. A copy of that certificate may be found in 40 O.S. 80.
Specific types of jobs and the hours a child under a certain age (usually 16) are able to work are specified in several other Oklahoma Statutes. For more information about those laws, see the following Statutes:
The Board of Education was also set up in the Oklahoma Constitution:
The supervision of instruction in public schools shall be vested in a Board of Education, whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law. (Emphasis added.)
As you can see, the Board of Education was set up to supervise "public schools," therefore they have no authority to regulate homeschoolers or private schools. It should be noted however, that if a child enters or re-enters the public school system, he/she will then come under the authority of the Board of Education and will be expected to meet their requirements. (See FAQ for more information on withdrawing from or re-entering public school.)
The Oklahoma State Department of Education web site provides a link to a homeschooling web page, but it should be emphasized that homeschoolers represent reduced funding for Oklahoma public schools. Due to the financial interests of the State, information obtained at the site may be biased against homeschooling, so information is obtained from this source should be verified by researching additional sources. OEA, a statewide teachers' union, and the NEA, the national teachers' union have formalized strong statements against homeschooling.
In order to avoid potential legal difficulties when withdrawing a child from public school, please refer to "What is the procedure for taking my child out of school?" It also includes a "Sample Letter for Withdrawing a Child from School."
At the time that a homeschooled child enters or re-enters the public school system, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Board of Education. Please refer to FAQs for more information.