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School District Filed Truancy Charges for Illness
Date filed: January 2009
Nature of Case:Seventh grader Lila Brown (name changed to protect privacy) had attended public school in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District for half of 2008 when her mother decided that it was in her best interest to homeschool her.
Having struggled with chronic health issues, including the flu, pneumonia, and mononucleosis, Lila had missed a significant amount of school during the first semester. Although Lila’s mother had doctor’s notes for all of her absences, the school called the family and threatened to hold Lila back if she did not satisfactorily make up the work.
At the beginning of 2009, the family submitted a written withdrawal notice to Lila’s school and began her home education program. Because they had previously been threatened by the district’s truant officer, Mrs. Brown was afraid of additional negative interaction, so she contacted HSLDA for advice.
In an attempt to forestall a truancy summons, HSLDA’s Senior Counsel Chris Klicka sent a letter to the principal of Lila’s former school. The letter explained that Lila was being privately educated in accordance with Texas law and that there was no reason to charge Lila’s parents with violation of the compulsory school attendance law.
Unfortunately, a short time later, the family received a Parent Inquiry for Parent Contributing to Nonattendance in the mail. Their court date was set for early April.
Klicka referred the case to HSLDA Associated Local Counsel Tom Sanders. As the court date approached, Sanders wrote to Lila’s former principal. He again explained that Lila was being legally homeschooled and had been since early January. He also noted that all of Lila’s previous public school absences had been excused by a doctor and there was therefore no reason to charge Lila’s parents with violation of the compulsory school attendance law. Sanders then asked that the principal withdraw the charge.
The principal complied with Sanders’s request, and more than three months after Lila’s official withdrawal from public school, the truancy case was dismissed.
The family later wrote to HSLDA, “Your support and attentiveness was beyond expectations. We feel extremely fortunate to be members of the HSLDA.”
Last Updated: April 2009