South Dakota

  • Alternative instruction provision: South Dakota law exempts students receiving “alternative instruction” from compulsory school attendance. Parents must file an exemption certificate with the Department of Education or local school district. There are no parent qualifications, days of instruction, bookkeeping, or assessment requirements.

Alternative Instruction

South Dakota law requires a parent to notify the Department of Education or local school district if their child will be receiving “alternative instruction in the basic skills of language arts and mathematics.” However, “[t]he person providing instruction is not required to be certified.” The only curriculum requirement is that alternative instruction “shall be given so as to lead to a mastery of the English language.” See South Dakota Codified Laws § 13-27-3.

Parents must submit an application for excuse from school attendance on a standard form that is provided by the secretary of the Department of Education. Although the form provided by the Department of Education requests additional information, South Dakota only requires parents to provide the following information on the form: the child’s name, birthdate, resident district, and open enrolled district if applicable, signature of the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the child and information for the return of the form. Once the notification has been filed with the Department of Education or local school board, parents are not required to file another notification of alternative instruction until the child enrolls in public or nonpublic school, or moves to a different school district. 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.

None. No one individual may instruct more than 22 children. See § 13-27-3.

Parents must provide alternative instruction until the child reaches the age of 18 or has “graduated.” § 13-27-1.

Parents must provide instruction “in the basic skills of language arts and mathematics.” See § 13-27-3.

Alternative education programs must also maintain a copy of each child’s birth certificate. See § 13-27-3.3.

No testing requirement.

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. 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.


Services Available to Homeschooled Students

Yes, at the district’s discretion. 



When the modern homeschool movement began in the 1970s and 1980s, South Dakota already had 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. South Dakota made significant changes to its homeschooling laws in 2021, when it removed all oversight and academic assessment requirements for homeschooled students.


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. Last updated April 2023.

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