A new Department of Education policy has riled one homeschool family, after they received a letter from the school district stating their children would be considered truant if they did not comply.

Nathan and Martha McCann have six children, two of whom are being homeschooled at their sprawling Freedom farmhouse. For the past two years they have filed the necessary paperwork to notify the district and the state of their intent to homeschool their two daughters without incident.

In previous years, the state required the full name and age of the student being homeschooled. This year, according to Nathan, the DOE requires parents to list their children's actual date of birth, something he believes they have no right to ask.

The McCanns homeschool their two daughters because they are opposed religiously to some subjects taught at the public school. They have fundamentalist beliefs about the Bible and their lifestyle.

Admittedly, he said, “We’re kind of weird.”

They also do not use a common calendar, which he said is based on pagan gods, and instead use an adaptation of the Jewish calendar based on solar stages. “All the days of the week are named after pagan gods,” he pointed out.

Kathy Green, co-founder of Homeschoolers of Maine, has advised the McCanns on this situation and said what the district and state are asking for is “not the law.” The current homeschooling law has been in effect since 2004, she said, and there is no requirement for date of birth.

“I don’t know where it really could go from here,” Green said, as it is not covered under Maine law.

The Republican Journal researched DOE homeschool requirements online, and found only a request for a “name and age of student.” Nathan said even if legislation were passed and then made into law, he would still be against the idea.

Superintendent Charles Brown of Regional School Unit 3 said that with the recent policy change, the state has put the district in the middle. “We’re doing what the state asked us to do,” he said.

According to Brown, his office has fielded calls from several homeschool families who have reacted similarly to the McCanns.

From a superintendent's view, he said, a truancy counts against the district, which is something Brown would rather avoid. If all avenues are exhausted, he said, the Department of Health and Human Services can eventually become involved, but he added, “I’m not going to chase a homeschool family.”

According to the letter received by the McCanns from the district, because of the missing date of birth information, their notice was given a “pending” status, meaning their children’s school attendance is not recognized by the DOE.

The letter goes on to read, “It means the Department cannot provide confirmation or verification of home instruction to you or any social service agencies, school administrative units, or post-secondary career or educational entities that may be needed, now or in the future.

“A notice that remains in pending status for more than 30 days will be returned to the sender, unfiled, and the student will be considered truant.”

Several attempts to reach Pamela Ford-Taylor, DOE school enrollment consultant, went unanswered as of press time.

The McCanns do not predict any legal action will be taken against them, saying “we have done our due diligence.”

“I don’t appreciate the threatening letter from the district and state,” Nathan said, adding, “If we don’t protect our rights, they will be taken from us.”