State Law: South Dakota

South Dakota compulsory school attendance age

Beginning with the school year during which your child is or will be 5 by September 1, you must begin following South Dakota compulsory school law for that child.

Your child no longer has to obey the compulsory school law once he or she turns 18 or graduates.

HSLDA believes that a parent-issued diploma and transcript should be sufficient to demonstrate that a child has completed a secondary education. However, even if your child is beyond compulsory school attendance age, there may be situations where you would want to continue to follow the requirements of a home education option recognized under South Dakota law until your child graduates from high school (filing a home education notice, keeping attendance and other records, etc.). These records may be requested in some situations, such as obtaining a driver’s license if your child is a minor, enlisting in the military, applying to colleges, or demonstrating eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you are a member of HSLDA and would like additional details, please contact us.

Withdrawing your child from his or her current school

If you want to start homeschooling during the school year and your child is currently enrolled in a public or private school, HSLDA recommends that you formally withdraw your child from that school. If you are going to start homeschooling after the school year is over, and your child is considered enrolled for the following year, we recommend that you withdraw your child before the next school year begins, so that the school does not mark your child as absent or truant.

We invite you to become a member of HSLDA to receive specific advice about withdrawing your child from school and starting to homeschool. Local schools may have specific forms or withdrawal procedures. HSLDA members are eligible to receive individualized advice about whether complying with those procedures is advisable or required. HSLDA members can also use the sample letter of withdrawal for South Dakota available in Member Resources to correspond with school officials.

We generally recommend that any correspondence with authorities be sent by “Certified Mail—Return Receipt Requested.” Keep copies of the withdrawal letter and any other paperwork or correspondence, and any green postal receipts, for your personal records.

Note: If your child has never attended a public or private school, this section does not apply.

Complying with South Dakota’s homeschool law

To homeschool legally in South Dakota, you’ll need to follow these regulations:

1. Notify a local school official on the DOE’s form. 

Each year, you must notify a local school official on a certain form, available on the HSLDA website and on the South Dakota Department of Education website. In the blank that asks for the “Alternative instruction program to be attended,” write homeschool. Two people must sign as witnesses or the form must be notarized. The notice is effective immediately upon being filed. You do not need to wait for the school system to respond before you start homeschooling.

The first time you file the form for a child, you need to include either (1) a copy of your child’s birth certificate or (2) an affidavit swearing or affirming that the child for whom the excuse is being requested is the same as the person “appearing on the child’s birth certificate,” and the affidavit must be notarized or witnessed by two witnesses. Violation of this requirement is a misdemeanor. If you submit a birth certificate, you must maintain your child’s birth certificate as part of his or her permanent cumulative school record.

Plan to file the form before school starts in your district, or not later than the day you take your child out of public school. If you take your child out of public school and don’t file the form immediately, your child could be considered truant during the days in between.

2. Teach the required subjects. 

Give your child instruction in language arts and math. It’s mandatory to provide instruction in those subjects.

3. Teach for an equivalent period of time to the public schools. 

Teach for “an equivalent period of time” as local public schools. This may vary slightly, but all school districts in South Dakota are required to teach for at least a nine-month regular term. Keep records showing how many days each child receives instruction each school year.

4. No single individual is permitted to homeschool more than 22 children. 

5. Submit standardized test results to your school district. 

Test your child in grades 4, 8, and 11 with either the standardized test used by the school district or (if you prefer) any nationally standardized test. These test results will need to be turned in to your local school district, but you should also keep copies of the results on file. If a subsequent test shows “less than satisfactory” academic progress, the school board may refuse to renew the child’s public school exemption certificate.

6. Keep good records. 

Keep good records so you can defend yourself in case the state demands to see your records. The records should show how many days the child attended and evidence of progress.

7. Respond to any requests for records by the secretary of education. 

If the state secretary of education has probable cause to believe that your homeschool program is not in compliance with the law, then he or she may inspect your records. The secretary must give you 14 days’ written notice.

If the school district revokes your certificate of excuse, you may appeal to the state board of education.

The importance of recordkeeping

You can find South Dakota’s specific recordkeeping requirements, if any, above. Regardless of what state you live in, HSLDA recommends that you keep detailed records of your homeschool program. These records may be helpful if you face an investigation regarding your homeschooling or your student needs to furnish proof of education.