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Homeschooling Laws in Montana
Life in Montana is a blessing. One of the many options Montanan parents have is choosing how to educate their children.
Generally speaking, in Montana, children between the ages of 7 and 16 are required to attend school by law. That is, school is “compulsory.” It is a parent’s or guardian’s responsibility to ensure their children between these ages are enrolled in school. The state law that enunciates these requirements is Montana Code Annotated § 20-5-102.
However, compulsory education in Montana does not prevent a parents or guardian from choosing to homeschool their children. In Montana the specific requirements for homeschooling are found in Montana Code Annotated §20-5-109. The Office of Public Administration in Montana put together a “Home School Informational Packet” which can be found here, which outlines in more detail various requirements.
If you choose to homeschool your children, you are required by law to follow requirements regarding numerous items. This article will not exhaustively list the requirements, but highlight only a few. You must (1) maintain records on attendance; (2) provide minimum hours of instruction; and (3) notify the county superintendent of schools of the child’s status as home schooled. In Flathead County, this official is Jack Eggensperger, who can be reached here.
Schooling requirements are largely a matter of state jurisdiction, so there are really no Federal laws about homeschooling. The only United States Supreme Court case which touches on the subject is Wisconsin v. Yoder ,406 U.S. 205 (1972). Yoder addressed the interplay between religion and “agricultural vocational education under a parent’s guidance.” In Yoder, several Amish parents appealed a fine applied by the state of Wisconsin for their refusal to enroll their children in high school. The parents argued that the values taught in high school were generally opposed to their religious beliefs. The Court addressed the interchange of individual’s First Amendment rights to freedom of religion with the state’s interest in universal compulsory education. The United States Supreme Court found that it was “settled  that, however strong the State’s interest in universal compulsory education, it is by no means absolute to the exclusion or subordination of all other interests.” Id. at 216. The Supreme Court ultimately held that the freedom of religion (made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment) “prevent the State from compelling respondents to cause their children to attend formal high school to age 16.” Id. at 236. However, “[n]othing we hold is intended to undermine the general applicability of the State’s compulsory school-attendance statutes or to limit the power of the State to promulgate reasonable standards that, while not impairing the free excercise of religion, provide for continuing agricultural vocational education under parental and church guidance by the Old Order Amish or others similarly situated.” Id.
By Becky Henning-Rutz, grizzlylaw.com (Becky graduated from Flathead High School in 1999 and went on to obtain her Juris Doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law. Her primary focus at work is representing injured people against insurance companies, but by far her favorite thing to do professionally is help families complete adoptions and she has been a Heritage mom during the 2020-2021 school year. You can reach Becky here.)