I just received a summons for jury duty. Can I be excused for jury duty because I am homeschooling my children?

Some homeschooling parents in some jurisdictions have been excused from jury duty, while others have not been excused. It all depends on many variables, including the laws and policies of the county or city in which you reside; the type of jury duty for which you have been summoned (county circuit court, grand jury, federal court, etc.); the ages of your homeschooled children; and the judge who is presiding over the court the day you request to be excused.

Some courts will routinely excuse parents from jury duty if they are caring for children in their home. However, there may be age limits involved. For instance, a judge might excuse a mother who is caring for young children, but not excuse a mother who is caring for teens.

In some cases, you may be able to find out more about your specific court’s policies by reading the information sent to you with your summons, calling a special phone number included with your summons, or visiting your court’s website on the Internet. Often, you will not know whether you are excused or can be excused until you visit the court on your first day of jury duty.

The letter says I have to serve as a juror for three weeks. How can I possibly do that as a homeschooling parent?

Don’t panic. Just because you have received a letter about jury duty does not necessarily mean that you will ever actually serve as a juror in a trial. Read your letter carefully. Is it an official summons to jury duty on a particular particular date, or just an informational letter saying that you might receive an official summons within the next year? Many registered voters receive informational letters about the potential for jury duty, but never receive a follow-up letter officially summoning them to actual duty.

Even if you receive an official summons to jury duty, your actual presence in court might only be requested for a few days, or not at all. One homeschooling parent/juror reports that he faithfully called the recorded phone message for his circuit court every day for three weeks, but never even got to visit the courthouse, let alone serve on a jury.

Once at the courthouse, you might be considered for several juries, but not selected for any of them for a variety of reasons. Or you might sit and wait for an hour to be considered for a jury, only to be told that the case was rescheduled for another day or settled outside of court.

If I do get selected to participate in a trial, who will care for my homeschooled children while I am away?

The good news is that most trials by jury are very brief, and most juries are not “sequestered” (kept away from the outside world until the trial is completed). In most cases, your trial will be completed in a day or two, and you will be able to go home to your family at the end of the court day. So your need for childcare is likely to be brief as well.

Some homeschooling parent/jurors have arranged child care with family members or friends. Other parent/jurors have brought their older children to court with them, along with an ample supply of schoolwork and other quiet activities to keep them occupied. Some teen homeschoolers may have the maturity and interest to watch the courtroom proceedings as a quiet spectator. As the parent, you know your children best and know where they would be happiest and best behaved.

Jury duty can be a short-term inconvenience for homeschooling families. It can also be a fantastic learning opportunity. By playing an active part in our country’s legal system, homeschooling parent/jurors learn valuable and fascinating lessons about law, justice, and citizenship which we can share with our children. The lessons learned as jurors can have implications many years into the future.

This information is provided as a courtesy of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. It is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice, contact a licensed attorney.

VaHomeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.