Homework has been an integral part of schooling since Horace Mann honed the foundation of modern learning in 1837. It quickly became something students dread worldwide, with many visibly happier on days without homework. With homework established as a source of stress for students, is it illegal?
Homework is not illegal in most jurisdictions. However, a few schools have banned homework for their students as they are free to make rules in this regard. In schools where homework is a part of the learning process, parents can legally opt-out if they feel it’s not beneficial to their child.
The rest of the article will look at the legality of homework. You’ll also learn more about your legal homework rights as a parent.
Why Homework Is Not Illegal
There are many debates surrounding the efficacy of homework. However, after years of debate and research, there’s no conclusive evidence that it helps (or doesn’t help) students achieve better grades. While some students struggle with homework and tend to do better in school without them, others rely on them to become more grounded in certain subjects.
For example, many students grasp mathematics principles better via constant practice. Therefore, Making homework illegal may put more students at a disadvantage, tilting the results towards children that have these skills come naturally to them.
The government understands this fact and has not enacted any nationwide laws banning schools from handing out homework. No school teacher will be arrested by law enforcement for giving out homework to students.
Schools and the Legality of Homework
Although there are no government-backed laws banning homework across the country, school districts can make their own laws around the subject. According to this Wall Street Journal article, many school districts are adopting the “no homework” approach at the elementary level.
The districts cited several reasons for their decisions. Many of them ultimately believe that the decision will help more students sleep better, spend more time with their families, and enjoy leisurely activities. They also say it will help the students to read better.
In these schools, teachers won’t be arrested for giving out homework, but they can be relieved of their duties by the school administration.
While some parents have welcomed these changes, many others have instead chosen to withdraw their kids, taking them to private schools.
Do I Legally Have To Do My Homework?
You don’t legally have to do your homework. No law enforcement body will arrest you for failing to do your homework on any day. However, your school has the right to determine what happens to a student who doesn’t do homework.
In schools where homework is a part of the learning approach, you may be asked to leave the school if you continue to ignore homework. Parents who allow their children to ignore homework may state their case at the School Board and attempt to get an exemption, but in many cases, such attempts still end in a request to withdraw the child from the school.
So, while you’re not breaking any federal or state laws by refusing to do your homework, you have no control over the school’s actions after you refuse to do your homework. They have legal backing to take any decisions they deem necessary in the situation.
In What State Is Homework Illegal?
Homework is legal in all US states as there are no state laws banning them. However, schools in different states are free to have their own rules about homework.
Some states where some schools (or districts) have banned or limited homework include:
- New Jersey
Can Homework Be Considered Slavery?
Homework can’t be considered slavery as there’s no legal definition to support that claim. Although homework is assigned to students without permission, equating it to slavery is an argument that will fail under the smallest bit of legal scrutiny.
For homework to be considered slavery, you have to prove that the teacher or instructor enjoys economic benefits due to your completing the assigned work. However, teachers don’t get any economic benefit from handing out homework. The sole aim is to help students practice what they’ve learned and become more grounded in their knowledge.
If you believe that the homework you’re assigned doesn’t contribute positively to your career in any way, you can state your case to the relevant authorities.
How To Legally Request a Reduction in Homework Time for Your Child
If homework is affecting your child’s family relationships or causing them crippling anxiety, you should consider filing for a reduction. The first step is to talk to the child’s teachers or administrators. During the meetings, you should highlight how the workload has negatively impacted your child.
If the workload is excessive, there’s a high chance other parents have laid similar complaints. With more parents like you making a case for a reduction, the administrators and the teachers involved may listen and look for a more efficient way to help the child.
When this avenue has been exhausted to no effect, you can seek to exercise your legal homework rights.
What Are the Legal Homework Rights?
The legal homework rights allow you to request a reasonable limit on your child’s homework time. The legal tool you can use for this is known as the 504 law, which has multiple accommodations for a child with any kind of impairment.
The term “impairment” is loosely defined under this law, which makes it a good legal tool when you’re seeking to accommodate a student’s various needs.
If the child has a diagnosed condition like Dyslexia or ADHD, you have a stronger backing. However, parents can exercise the legal homework rights without any such diagnosis.
How the 504 Process Works
The 504 process involves meetings with key stakeholders and filling out paperwork. The stakeholders involved in the meetings include:
- The parent
- The student
- A teacher
- A school administrator
During the meeting, they’ll pay attention and document all of your concerns. The record or document becomes a legally binding contract that the administrator or the child’s teacher must uphold. The case typically ends in the meeting room, but it may go to court on some occasions before it is enforced.
How Much Time Is Optimal for Homework per Day?
There’s no universal optimal length for time spent on homework per day. However, many educators recommend using the 10-minute rule. According to the rule, you should multiply 10 minutes by the child’s grade level to get the optimal amount of time your child should spend on homework.
By that calculation, a child in 2nd grade should only do 20 minutes of homework per day, while a child in 12th grade can do homework for up to two hours.
The 10-minute rule is favorable to parents trying to get some concessions using the legal homework rights. It’s easier to request a reduction in the homework time (which will increase as the child progresses through school) than to request a total elimination of homework in a child’s academic life.
The Argument Against Homework
Some of the arguments used against homework include the following:
- It encroaches into family and relaxation time. Students need some time each day to refresh, play, connect with family members, get adequate sleep, and more. These activities are important for a healthy balance with academics. Having too much homework every day means that a chunk of the relaxation time is spent studying.
- It puts students under pressure. The tension that comes with knowing that there’s still homework to be completed leads to unnecessary mental pressure for the student. When the pressure continues consistently, it could gradually begin to affect the student’s performance in school.
- It can affect a child’s self-confidence. A student who struggles with homework and returns poor results may start to withdraw into their shell around other students and may dread meetings with the teacher.
- Teachers don’t grade homework quickly (if at all). Teachers are often very busy handling different facets of the academic process, so they only take a cursory glance at submitted homework. Sometimes, the students get feedback long after the class has moved on to another topic. The lack of thorough grading defeats the purpose of the homework.
- Homework blurs the line between home and school. Ideally, a child should only be a student at school and transition to a normal child back home. Homework is akin to an adult bringing work back home each day—an approach bound to upset their work/life balance.
- Parents hire tutors to solve homework. Teachers give out homework to students in areas they need improvement. However, the intended result is muddied up by the activities of private tutors that may just solve the questions instead of taking adequate time to help students understand the topic.
The Argument for Homework
- It teaches responsibility and time management. Most of the arguments against homework come from the angle of small children getting overworked. However, these children need to learn responsibility and time management at an early age to become good students in the more daunting college and university environments. Homework helps achieve this.
- It gives parents a chance to work together with the child. Solving homework together can further improve the relationship between a child and a parent. It helps the parent see how the child handles school work, unearthing concerns to be discussed with the authorities.
- It helps students develop problem-solving skills. A child who regularly completes their homework will learn how to solve problems independently—a highly valuable skill that will stay with them throughout their lives. They’ll learn how to find information on their own in books, the internet, and any other useful resources.
- Homework prepares a child for the next level of education. Since teachers use homework to help children improve on specific areas, it’s an important tool for ensuring that the students properly understand subjects covered in their current grade. With this approach, they’ll have the right foundation for the next level of academics.
- It helps students gain insight into a teacher’s thought patterns. Homework can help students gain a deeper insight into how teachers think—an advantage that can help them prepare for tests and exams.
- It can help a child build higher self-esteem. The sense of satisfaction from completing homework and receiving high grades can give students a stronger sense of self-belief, which may help them become better students.
Why Schools Rely Heavily on Homework
We’ve looked at the arguments for and against homework from the perspective of the student.
How about schools? Why are the vast majority of them still in favor of homework?
As mentioned in previous sections, homework helps teachers see aspects of a lesson students failed to grasp and provide them with some assistance where necessary. If many students are failing their homework, the school can request a review of the teacher’s methods or hire someone else.
Secondly, homework helps schools rate the learning capacity of their students. It lets school officials differentiate between fast learners and those that might need extra help. The results may be skewed by parents that hire private tutors, but a school can still establish a rough baseline about students’ abilities.
Thirdly, homework helps schools shape children into well-rounded individuals who understand problem-solving as individuals or as a group (with other students living nearby, parents, and tutors).
Finally, homework gives schools more time with the students outside the classroom. The designated school hours are typically not enough to help a student grasp all the knowledge they need. Homework ensures the school can borrow an extra hour or two from the child’s time at home.
Why Students Need Holiday Homework
Holiday homework is important in a student’s life mainly because it helps bridge the long gap between academics and leisure time. For example, a child without any holiday homework for three months might find it difficult to get back into the school groove when the holiday ends.
With holiday homework, students can still stay in touch with their studies overall, practicing everything they learned the previous year and keeping their minds engaged.
Also, there’s no better time to teach time management and compartmentalizing than during the holidays. The child has to learn how to balance the leisurely activities typically lined up (including travel) with their academics.
Higher Education and Homework
As mentioned above, the bulk of arguments around homework focus on elementary school students. There’s very little argument against homework for higher education students. Colleges and universities don’t explicitly call them “homework.”
Still, students have essays, problem sets, discussion posts, and projects to complete—with all of them playing a vital role in their final grades.
With this in mind, it’s perhaps not a surprise that many parents withdraw their children from elementary schools where there’s a concerted effort against homework. To such parents, banning homework will leave the children at a disadvantage when they move to higher education.
How To Improve Your Child’s Ability To Cope With School Demands
If your child is visibly struggling to cope with school demands and there is no proof that he or she is overworked, there are a few approaches you can adopt to help them improve overall.
Create a Study Routine and Adhere to It
One major problem parents face is finding enough time to review their children’s homework, provide assistance, and talk about school with them. It’s harder now when children are more involved with social media, TV, and gaming.
You can overcome the problem by maintaining a fixed timeline for a child to handle their school work. For optimal results, the time should only be within the hours after dinner to ensure the child has had enough time to relax.
Set Up a Homework/Study Space
While some children can complete their homework or study while lying on the couch, others can get easily distracted in that position or sleep off. Find out your child’s preferences and help them put together a perfect workspace devoid of noise and distractions. Eliminate all interactions with gadgets that won’t serve any purpose for homework or study.
Use Incentives When Necessary
For some parents, there’s no need to reward children for doing their homework or for studying. However, if your child is visibly struggling to motivate students, offering incentives can ensure they keep doing their schoolwork.
Simple incentives like unlocking the Wi-Fi after they complete homework or handing over their gaming console can work. You could also offer grand incentives like promising an out-of-state holiday if they get X grades in X subjects.
Homework isn’t illegal and can’t be considered slavery. Although there are valid concerns about how it impacts students, you can’t ignore the positives and overall influence on a child’s academic foundation. Children are also not under obligation to complete homework by law.
However, schools can determine the course of action to take against the student.
If you have valid concerns about the quantity of work your child has to do or that the homework given is of little relevance, you can speak to school administrators for a review.
Learn More (External Links)
- Harvard College: “Homework” in College
- Wall Street Journal: Down With Homework, Say U.S. School Districts
- USA Today: Florida school district bans homework, replaces it with daily reading
- Local 12: Dream come true for students: Homework banned at some Utah schools
- Study Skills: Can You “Opt Out” of Homework?