The Home School Court Report
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February / March 1996
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Cover Story

Special Features
Billiot Family Challenges Statute

Michigan's New Law

Victory in Newfoundland

Top 10 Home Schooling States

Oklahoma Truant Officer Resigns

Home Schoolers in Books

Military Court Convicts Spc. New

Top 20 Advantages to Home Schooling

Another Unsung Hero

Regular Features

Across the States

National Center Reports

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Notes for Members

Litigation Report

President's Page
L I T I G A T I O N   R E P O R T

How our Cases are Stacking Up

Kennedy v. Aluzri, et al.

On Saturday, August 19, 1995, two police officers and a social worker arrived at the home of Robert and Maria Kennedy, demanding entry, inspection of the house and interrogation of the children. The officials had no search warrant and could see from looking at the three children, ages 6, 5, and 8 months that there was no emergency. Nevertheless, the officials entered the home, interrogated the children, and removed the shirts from the older boys to inspect for signs of abuse. The Kennedys would learn later that this outrageous conduct was precipitated by an anonymous caller reporting that Mrs. Kennedy left her children in the backyard unsupervised for a long period of time.

HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the family in the Central District of California on behalf of the family. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the family's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and the family's right to privacy and family integrity. The police officers recently filed their response to the lawsuit, denying all of the allegations, but also filing a cross claim against the social services officials involved. The police officers are taking a position that they are innocent of wrongdoing, but that whatever harm was caused to the family, was the responsibility of the social services department. The response of the social workers is to be filed in the last week of January, at which time the litigation will intensify.

In the Interest of Jeremiah C.

Jeremiah C. is a 3rd grader who has been in the physical custody of his grandparents since his birth. Jeremiah's mother lives in a nearby town and visits regularly with the child. On October 15, the grandparents withdrew their grandson from public school to begin educating him at home. The home instruction program is Abeka Video and began November 15, 1995. The non-accredited private school registration was made with the State Board of Education three days after the child was withdrawn from the public school.

Within 30 days of his coming home to school, a Child in Need of Care Proceeding was initiated in Allen County, Kansas regarding the child. This is the same county in which the county attorney and magistrate district court judge take the position that a home school is not a valid private school in Kansas. Local counsel, Kent Vincent, is working to persuade the county attorney that Jeremiah's program meets the requirements of Kansas law. The trial has been postponed pending the outcome of these negotiations.

John B. v. Patricia B.

The case originated when an Ohio court of appeals recently ruled that home schools in Ohio are "recognized and accredited." A noncustodial parent filed a motion to terminate his child support obligation on the basis that his son was not attending a "recognized and accredited high school." Ohio law provides that the parental duty of support pursuant to a child support order shall continue beyond the age of 18 as long as the child continually attends on a full-time basis "any recognized and accredited high school." It was the father's position that the home education provided to the child by his mother was not a "recognized and accredited high school." The trial judge agreed and terminated child support as of the child's 18th birthday, despite the fact that the child was only in the 11th grade at that time. We appealed.

A unanimous court of appeals held that "recognized and accredited" as set out in the Ohio child support statute means "as approved by the state." Since home schools are approved by the state, they are recognized and accredited. Students in home schools are, therefore, entitled to support until they graduate. The court pointed out that it is preposterous to conclude that only students at formally accredited high schools are entitled to child support beyond their 18th birthday. It is preposterous because out of the 1,572 high schools in the state of Ohio, only 500 of them are accredited by the North Central Association, a private organization to which schools apply for special distinction. The judgment of the trial court was reversed and the father ordered to pay child support up to the son's graduation from his home school in May of 1995.

In Re Christy Ann S.(Overton County)

A juvenile court judge foiled the Tennessee Department of Education's effort to declare a Jehovah's Witness home school illegal. On January 3, 1996, Christy Ann S. was on trial as an "unruly child." The prosecution is at the Department of Education's insistence because Christy is in the 10th grade and her parents do not have a baccalaureate degree as is required by state law. Tennessee law does provide, however, that parents associated with a church-related school may teach their high schoolers at home even if they do not have a college degree. Unfortunately, church-related school is defined by state law to mean only those schools who meet the standards for accreditation and membership in one of six private associations that are listed in the statute. Christy's family are Jehovah's Witnesses and cannot sign the statement of faith that will permit their membership in any of the six private associations available. They are, therefore, being discriminated against under the law.

We made two arguments on behalf of Christy. First, that she is not an unruly child because she is, in fact, obedient to the authority of her parents. To find her guilty of unruliness is to convict her for obedience to her parents as opposed to the state. The second argument is that the Tennessee home school law, as applied to Jehovah's Witness families like Christy's, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

The court ruled that the case should be dismissed. In doing so, the court pointed out:

It has long been the desire of society to have children obey the moral and legal commands of their parents, or what their parents presume to be their moral and legal commands. It is the opinion of this court that to punish a child for following the commands of the parents is not the desire of those who institute the laws of the land and that a child who is simply obeying his or her parents in a situation as this is not unruly or delinquent.

Mr. and Mrs. Daniel C. v. Roarke-Ruiz, et al.

Mr. and Mrs. C are the parents of four children, two of whom attend public school and two of whom are educated at home pursuant to the Virginia home school statute. The Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services was investigating the Family of C for allegations of educational neglect and physical abuse. The educational neglect was with respect to their home schooling, and the physical abuse was with respect to a bruise that was seen on the leg of their 13-year old son. Mr. and Mrs. C refused to permit the DSS worker to enter their home to interview their children, so the two children attending public school were interviewed at the school. Mr. and Mrs. C still refused to permit the remaining two to be questioned.

On October 16, 1995, a uniformed officer from the sheriff's department delivered three subpoenas to the C's home demanding that they appear with three of their children at the district court office supervising child abuse complaints. The officer advised them that he would obtain a warrant for their arrest if they refused to comply with the subpoenas. When Mr. and Mrs. C provided our office with a copy of the subpoena, we observed that the subpoenas were fraudulent because there is no underlying court proceeding or legal authorization of any kind for the subpoenas. A civil rights lawsuit was then filed on their behalf of Mr. and Mrs. C. seeking a declaratory judgment that the custom or policy of using fraudulent subpoenas to gain the "cooperation" of parents is a violation of procedural due process.

Less than 90 days after the filing of the lawsuit, it has been settled. The social worker and court officials acknowledged that the practice of the bogus subpoenas was illegal and have agreed to compensate the family of C. in the sum of $3,000.00.

[SIDEBAR] HSLDA attorneys (left-right) Dewitt Black, David Gordon, and Scott Somerville recently celebrated an especially sweet victory in the case of In Re Christy Ann S. with a cake that reads "Our God Reigns in Tennessee!"

Three years ago, a school filed criminal charges against one home schooling family, but the charges were thrown out of court. The judge said the State had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tennessee's criminal truancy law was constitutional. Ever since then, the department of education has encouraged schools to file "unruly child" charges against the children, rather than "criminal truancy" charges against the parents.

The problem with this is that children in Tennessee have no legal duty to go to school-they are only required to obey their parents. Their parents, in turn, are legally required to make sure the children are in school. This judge's opinion forces the Tennessee Department of Education to go back and do the hard work of proving that their criminal truancy law passes constitutional muster!