February 16, 2015
Last week, homeschool alum Alecia Pennington’s story took the social media world and online publications by storm. Alecia released a video on YouTube explaining that, as her parents had never obtained a birth certificate or social security number for her, she is unable to prove her identity as an American citizen, and is thus unable to drive, work, vote, or attend college. We support Alecia’s efforts to obtain the documentation she needs and thank her for calling attention to the documentation problems that homeschooled students can face.
While the vast majority of homeschooling parents obtain birth certificates and social security numbers for their children, a small percentage choose not to do so. Families that plan home births may knowingly fail to file a birth certificate, especially when births are unassisted or attended by unlicensed midwives. Parents are generally required to provide their children’s birth certificates when enrolling their children in school, but only homeschooling parents in five states (AZ, LA, ND, NE, SD) are bound by this requirement. As a result, it is possible for homeschooled children to reach adulthood without ever obtaining identifying documentation.
This problem is not limited to identification documents—homeschool alumni may also lack access to documentation of their academic accomplishments, which in most states is under the complete control of homeschooling parents. Diplomas and transcripts are created and issued by homeschooling parents, which can result in serious problems for homeschool alumni whose parents are abusive or controlling. In some cases, homeschooling parents withhold these documents in order to keep their children living at home long past the age of majority, or to dictate their children’s college or career choices. (Click here to read more.)
While responsible homeschooling parents obtain identification documentation for their children, keep good academic records, and make both available to the kids when they graduate, this is unfortunately not universal. A survey conducted by Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out in 2014 found that 3.65% of respondents had experienced some form of identification abuse. These are situations where parents withhold important identification documents from their adult children, often in an effort to sabotage or manipulate them. (You can read some of these stories here.)
We recommend that parents be required to submit a copy of each child’s birth certificate to the local school district or state board of education when they begin homeschooling. This would hold homeschooling parents to the same standard as public and private school parents and ensure that any missing documents are noticed and addressed. We also recommend implementing annual assessments for homeschooled students, the results to be kept on file at the local school district or by the state board of education, subject to the same standard privacy restrictions as public and private school students’ information. These documents would be made accessible to homeschooled students when they came of age, thus guaranteeing them access to their academic records. Implementing these policy recommendations would be a step toward protecting at-risk homeschooled children from identification abuse without unduly burdening responsible homeschooling parents.
While the vast majority of homeschooling parents obtain standard identification documents for their children and provide their children with the necessary documentation of their education, we should not ignore the homeschooled children in our communities who are the victims of identification abuse.
The board of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.