Rudolph & Jolynn Jones v. State Department of Education
A civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Jones who are home schooling four children. Arkansas law requires home-schooled children to take an annual standardized achievement test and to reimburse the state a fee of $35.00 per test. Mr. Jones has been injured and reinjured on the job within the last few years and cannot afford to pay the requisite fee. An inability to pay the fee would result in the revocation of his family's legal home school status.
Both sides have asked the judge to rule on the case without the necessity of a trial. Home School Legal Defense Association contends that the Arkansas reimbursement statute violates the Jones family's fundamental right to direct the education of their children when coupled with their right to the free exercise of religion. We argue that the state cannot show a compelling interest in the fee sufficient to justify such a law. The State Department of Education, on the other hand, argues first that Mr. and Mrs. Jones are not indigent, but can afford to pay the testing fee. Second, they argue that even if the Joneses are indigent, there is no such thing as the fundamental right to home educate children, so the state must only show that there is a rational basis for the law, namely, the recoupment of expenses.
A decision from the court is imminent since the trial is set for May 13, 1996.
Kennedy v. Aluzri, et al
This civil rights lawsuit stems from the warrantless entry into the home of Robert and Maria Kennedy for inspection of the house, and interrogation and physical examination of the children. The Kennedys would later learn that this unlawful conduct was precipitated by an anonymous caller reporting that Mrs. Kennedy left her children in the backyard unsupervised.
The Los Angeles County Department of Social Services filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that their social worker is entitled to immunity from such claims. HSLDA responded to the motion by arguing that the defendant is entitled to assert only qualified immunity, which does not protect a government official from claims for violation of clearly established law. We assert that the law governing these circumstances is clear, that absent an exigent circumstance, the Fourth Amendment demands a search warrant prior to the invasion of a private home. The parties await the court's decision.
Children & Family Services v. Mrs. B.
Following a hearing before an administrative law judge in Springfield, Illinois, the finding of child abuse against Mrs. B will be expunged from the record. The finding stemmed from a cut beneath the eye of Mrs. B's 6-year old daughter. The cut required stitches at the local emergency room. The incident occurred when Mrs. B was walking into the playroom. She stepped on a bucket the children had promised to pick up. Mrs. B picked up the bucket and threw it against the wall in anger. Mrs. B did not intend to throw the bucket at a child, nor did she even see her children when she threw it. Nevertheless, the bucket bounced off the wall and hit her daughter in the face, injuring the child. The judge concluded that the injury to Mrs. B's daughter was by accident and that Mrs. B was not guilty of abuse, nor had she created a real and significant danger of physical injury to the child. All findings were expunged.
State v. Cheryl Battles
This mother of a kindergartner with sincerely held religious beliefs that she should teach her child at home is being criminally prosecuted for her refusal to sign the Maryland assurance of consent home school form. According to Mrs. Battles, consenting to be under the jurisdiction of the local school district would violate her Christian faith because the public schools are atheistic and require education that denies the absolute truths contained in Scripture. Mrs. Battles does not object to demonstrating that she is in compliance with the compulsory attendance statutes requirement that she provide a "regular and thorough" education. A standardized test administered to the child indicates that her progress is considerably advanced for her age. The trial is presently scheduled for April 9, 1996.
Children Family Services Board v. Family of V.
The Ashtabula County Juvenile Court was the scene of one of the most bizarre hearing in which HSLDA has been involved. Fourteen-year old and four-year old sons were removed from this member's home without notice by order of the court. HSLDA appeared on the mother's behalf two days later to persuade the court that there was not probable cause to justify the immediate removal of these children.
What made the case so odd was the fact that the individuals alleging educational neglect and physical abuse by the mother were three older children, ages 15, 18, and 20, who had not been in the home for more than nine months. All three of these children claimed to have been witches, the two youngest claimed to have been sexually abused by their father and have been in psychological counseling for several years. Now they deny their activity in the occult and recant on their allegations against their father. Yet it is based on their testimony that the court removed the two younger boys.
Following a seven hour hearing, the court dismissed the allegations of educational neglect, but ordered the boys to be placed into the custody of Mrs. V.'s sister, an aunt with whom the boys have a good relationship. About three weeks later, however, the boys were placed in foster care in order to insure their continued education. The hearing on the allegations of physical abuse is set to begin March 19, 1996.
State v. Thomas & Kathleen SanBento
These parents of a 10-year old daughter and 8-year old son are being criminally prosecuted for failure to comply with the state's compulsory attendance statute. The truth is that the SanBentos have been educating their children since the beginning of the '95-'96 school year and requested approval from the Lincoln School Committee in September. The SanBento curriculum was not approved by the school committee, but HSLDA had been attempting to resolve the differences when Mr. and Mrs. SanBentos were served with criminal summonses.
In the second week of March 1996, the Lincoln School Committee approved the SanBento curriculum. The criminal actions should now be dismissed. Nevertheless, the school superintendent continues to insist upon the SanBento children taking the Metropolitan Achievement Test, as well as the state mandated written evaluation assessment test each year. We believe the requirement of both of these tests to be beyond the terms of a written agreement between the SanBentos and the superintendent, so we are working to resolve this dispute.
Mr. and Mrs. Daniel C. v. Roarke-Ruiz, et al.
Though we previously reported that this civil rights lawsuit against the Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services (DSS) and Pittsylvania County court clerks had been settled, DSS refuses to participate in the settlement. This lawsuit is the result of an effort by the DSS, with the cooperation of the domestic and relations court clerk and intake officer, to issue bogus subpoenas to obtain the "cooperation" of Mr. and Mrs. C with the department's child abuse investigation.
On October 16, 1995, a uniformed officer from the sheriff's department delivered three subpoenas to the C's home demanding 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 we obtained a copy of the subpoenas, we recognized that they were fraudulent because there was no underlying court proceeding or legal authorization of any kind. A civil rights lawsuit has been filed and settled between all defendants other than DSS. The case will now proceed against them for their violation of procedural due process.