A History of Homeschooling in Indiana

The legality of homeschooling in Indiana rests on State v. Peterman (1904). In that case, the Indiana Appellate Court defined a school as “a place where instruction is imparted to the young” and held that a school at home counts as a private school. “We do not think that the number of persons, whether one or many, makes a place where instruction is imparted any less or any more a school,” the court affirmed. “The [compulsory attendance] law was made for the parent, who does not educate his child, and not for the parent who . . . so places within the reach of the child the opportunity and means of acquiring an education equal to that obtainable in the public schools.”

Even with this ruling, there was some ambiguity about the legality of homeschooling in the 1970s and early 1980s, and local school districts generally exercised some level of oversight and control over homeschoolers. Parents frequently had to seek permission from their local school districts to begin homeschooling, and some superintendents were friendlier toward homeschooling than others. The Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) formed in 1983 out of a desire to lobby the legislature for the legal rights of homeschoolers.

In Mazanec v. North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation (1985), the Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the legality of homeschooling and ended local school districts’ jurisdiction over homeschooling. The court ruled that parents had the right to homeschool their children, referencing both State v. Peterman and the Indiana Code, which stated that “it is unlawful for a parent to fail, neglect or refuse to send his child to a public school . . . unless the child is being provided with instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools.” In wrestling with the word “equivalent,” the court stated that “it is now doubtful that the requirements of a formally licensed or certified teacher . . . would pass constitutional muster.” No oversight or regulation of homeschooling has ever been passed by the Indiana legislature, and today cases where homeschool families are prosecuted for educational neglect are so rare as to be sensational.

See also “Homeschooling in Indiana: A Closer Look.”

For more state histories, see Histories of Homeschooling.

For more on homeschooling in Indiana, see Indiana.

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