NJ Education Code has a Compulsory Education Component, but homeschool families in New Jersey legally homeschool because of 2 court decisions.
This is not intended to be legal advice and is distributed for information purposes only. Check for updates on the New Jersey Department of Education homeschooling site.
New Jersey’s compulsory education law states that every child between the ages of six and 16 must attend a public or private school, or receive “equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school”. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 18A: 38-25.Teacher certification required? – NoTesting – NoOversight – None”Equivalent” curriculum as the public schools. (Does NOT mean “the same as.” It does mean “same very general content areas.”)
The following New Jersey statutes apply to compulsory education:
Requires compulsory education in New Jersey: “Every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between six and 16 shall cause such child regularly to attend the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.”
“a parent or guardian or other person having charge and control of a child between the ages of 6 and 16 years, who shall fail to comply with any of the provisions of this article relating to his duties, shall be deemed to be a disorderly person and shall be subject to a fine of not more than $25.00 for the first offense and not more than $100.00 for each subsequent offense, in the discretion of the court.”
The provision, “to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school,” in N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25 permits parent(s)/guardian(s) to educate the child at home.
There are two major court decisions in New Jersey regarding homeschooling:
State v. Vaughn 44 N.J. 142 (1965)
This case deals with the procedures to be employed when parent(s)/guardian(s) are charged with failing to cause the child to attend school under the compulsory education law. During the prosecution of a case against parent(s)/guardian(s) for a violation of the compulsory education law, the State need only allege a violation of the statute. It is then incumbent upon the parent(s)/guardian(s) to introduce evidence showing that they are relying on one of the two statutory exceptions (day school or equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school). Once there is such evidence in the case, the burden of persuasion with respect to whether the education comes within the exception is with the State.
State v. Massa 95 N.J. Super 382 (1967)
In court, the parents were charged with failing to cause the child to attend school under the compulsory education law. The only issue before the court was whether the parents were providing equivalent instruction. The court held that the language under the compulsory education law, providing for equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school, required showing only academic equivalency and not equivalency of social development derived from group education. In educating the child at home, the parents were required to show only that “the instruction was academically equivalent to that provided in the local public school.”
New Jersey Education Code Interpretation
New Jersey requires that parents provide their children with an education, either in a private school, the public schools or elsewhere.
Parents should maintain continuous records/documentation that shows they are providing their homeschooled children with equivalent instruction as in the public schools. However, usually if questioned by a school system (very rare), all one needs do is mention by name the titles of the books used. The State of New Jersey has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a family’s curriculum is not equivalent.
There is no requirement in the law that states that the parents have to even initiate notification to the school district of their intent to homeschool; however, if requested, they are under the obligation to provide the local superintendent with evidence of their curriculum. In order to explain that a homeschool family is providing something equivalent, the tradition is to send a curriculum outline once a year. Approval is almost automatic because as long as the family is providing the same general subjects they are equivalent. There is nothing in the law itself to stipulate the homeschool must send a curriculum. Some parents also send a letter accepting legal responsibility for their children’s education. “Same general subjects” can usually be interpreted loosely as language arts, math, science, social studies and physical education in lower grades, with the addition of a foreign language in upper grades.
State Regulation of Private Schools – New Jersey
Home Schooling: New Jersey does not have a code that addresses the area of home schooling. New Jersey’s compulsory education law states that every child between the ages of six and 16 must attend a public or private school, or receive “equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school”. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 18A: 38-25.
Responsibility for enforcing the compulsory education law rests with the local board of education. When a school board has reason to believe that a parent or guardian is not complying with the compulsory education law, the local board of education can initiate truancy proceedings in municipal court, requiring parents or legal guardians to document their activities in providing “equivalent instruction”. N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 18A: 38-27 through 18A: 38-31.