South Dakota

  • Alternative instruction provision: South Dakota law exempts students receiving “alternative instruction” from compulsory school attendance. Parents must file an annual exemption certificate with the local school district, provide instruction “for an equivalent period of time” as public schools, cover “the basic skills of language arts and mathematics,” and have their children tested after grades 2, 4, 8, and 11. There are no parent qualifications or bookkeeping requirements. Test scores must be kept on file by the local school district. If a student’s scores do not show “satisfactory academic progress” the school board may choose not to renew the certificate of excuse. There is House Bill 1110 (1-31-2019) that, if passed, would require parents to provide a copy of a birth certificate for every student when filing to homeschool.

Alternative Instruction

South Dakota law allows a child to be excused from school attendance if “the child is otherwise provided with alternative instruction.” See South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3.

Notification: Parents must submit an annual application for excuse from school attendance on a standard form that provided by the secretary of the Department of Education. This application must be notarized and signed by two witnesses and must include the names of teachers, the place of instruction, and a description of the basic skills taught. Each certificate of excuse will be for a period not exceeding one year and shall state the reason for the excuse (i.e., that the child is receiving alternative instruction) and is effective upon filing. Each school district will keep a permanent record of all certificates of excuse, which are confidential, and shall forward copies to the secretary of the Department of Education and to the place where the child is instructed. Parents are required to provide either a certified copy of each child’s birth certificate (or a notarized and witnessed affidavit swearing to the child’s identity) with the initial request for excuse. See South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-7§ 13-27-9, and § 13-27-3.1.
Qualifications: None. No one individual may instruct more than 22 children. See § 13-27-3.
Days or hours: Parents must provide instruction “for an equivalent period of time” as public schools. See § 13-27-3.
Subjects: Parents must provide instruction “in the basic skills of language arts and mathematics.” See § 13-27-3.
Bookkeeping: Alternative education programs must also maintain a copy of each child’s birth certificate. See § 13-27-3.2. Further, while there is no official additional record keeping requirement, the secretary of the Department of Education has the authority to inspect an alternative program’s records, including but limited to attendance records and evidence showing academic progress, if the secretary has probable cause to believe the program is not in compliance. See § 13-27-3.
Assessment: Students in grades 2, 4, 8, and 11 must take a nationally standardized achievement test of basic skills. This may be a test provided by the state and administered by the local school district or it may be another nationally standardized achievement test chosen by and at the expense of the parent. Students’ test scores must be kept on file in each student’s school district of residence. See § 13-27-3 and § 13-27-7.
Intervention: South Dakota has several different intervention methods.First, if the results of subsequent achievement tests “reveal less than satisfactory academic progress in the child’s level of achievement, the school board may refuse to renew the child’s certificate of excuse.” See § 13-27-7.Second, the general statute states that the secretary of the Department of Education “may investigate and determine whether the instruction is being provided” and that “failure to provide instruction is grounds for the school board, upon thirty days’ notice, to revoke the excuse from school attendance.” However, the secretary of the Department of Education may only “inspect the records of an alternative education program” on “fourteen days’ written notice” and “if the secretary has probable cause to believe the program is not in compliance with this section.” See § 13-27-3.Third, South Dakota law does include educational neglect under the definition of neglect, meaning that homeschool parents who are not educating their children may be reported to the department of social services. See § 26-8A-2.Finally, it should be noted that parents have the right to appeal to the Board of Education, which shall conduct a hearing, and that in that hearing, “the burden of proving noncompliance with § 13-27-3 shall be upon the secretary of the Department of Education.” See § 13-27-8.
Other: n/a

Services Available to Homeschooled Students

Part-time enrollment: Yes, at the district’s discretion. 
Extracurriculars: Yes, at the district’s discretion. 
Special needs: No. 
Other: n/a


When the modern homeschool movement began in the 1970s and 1980s, South Dakota already had an alternative education statutes on its books. Some homeschoolers, however, chafed against that statute’s home visit requirement. The state legislature removed this requirement when it passed H.B. 1260 in 1993. In 1996, the state legislature passed H.B. 1286, which allowed homeschool parents a greater degree of choice in selecting their children’s required nationally standardized achievement tests.


Here’s how to report educational neglect. Have you reported educational neglect in this state? Please tell us about your experience.

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3.1

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3.2

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3.3

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3.4

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-7

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-8

South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-9

Homeschool, South Dakota Department of Education

South Dakota, International Center for Home Education Research

This overview is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the giving of legal advice.