The Home School Court Report
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L  I  T  I  G  A  T  I  O  N     R  E  P  O  R  T
Active Cases

Mr. & Mrs. William DeSantis v. San Bernardino County CPS
To be filed soon

CPS Workers Insist on Entering Without Warrant or Consent

It has become a familiar story with the same tragic ending. Child Protective Services workers insisted upon entering the DeSantis home to investigate allegations of abuse. The workers told Mrs. DeSantis that they did not need a warrant if they were checking on a child. When she told them that they could only come in if there was immediate harm to the child, the worker responded, “How do we know if there is harm?” Outside the gate, Mrs. DeSantis permitted the visual inspection and interview of her two older children (ages 6 and 2). It was apparent that they were not facing immediate harm.

According to the workers, they still needed to enter to check the utilities, refrigerator, etc. Mrs. DeSantis told the workers that they did “not have her consent to enter, but the gate was open.” The social workers then pushed through the gate and marched into the house. Inside the home, the 30-month- and 18-month-old children were strip-searched. While the 6-year-old daughter was being interviewed in private, however, she raced from the house in tears, explaining later to her mother that she had been asked to show her private parts. Even though the case was closed by CPS, Mrs. DeSantis and her children were traumatized by the incident. Now, six months after the event, this mother still breaks into tears as she recalls the story. A lawsuit against the individual workers and San Bernardino County CPS is to be filed.

Taylor v. O’Keefe, et al.
Filed May 2, 1997

Unanimous Federal Appeals Ruling Opens Door for 4th Amendment Justice

On December 6, 1999, Judge Margaret Morrow reopened Taylor v. O’Keefe, et al., on the basis of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Calabretta v. Floyd, et al. Last May, Judge Morrow threw out the case against Kathleen O’Keefe, a social worker with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies. But a unanimous August 1999 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that said social workers must obey the U.S. Constitution when investigating child abuse made reinstatement of Taylor inevitable.
In its Calabretta opinion, the Ninth Circuit said that the “reasonable expectation of privacy of individuals in their homes includes the interests of both parents and children in not having government officials coerce entry in violation of the Fourth Amendment and humiliate the parents in front of the children.”
Michael Farris, lead attorney for the Calabrettas and president of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said that “police and social workers cannot force their way into private homes. The Calabretta ruling erases the possibility that the law is not clear in the rest of the country. This includes the deputies who used threats to coerce entry into the Taylor home.”
On Feb. 14, 1997, Kathleen O’Keefe, a DCFS social worker, sought for 90 minutes to gain entry into the Taylor home. But she had no warrant, there were no exigent circumstances, and Vicki Taylor would not consent. O’Keefe contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which sent two sheriff’s deputies to the Taylor home. Deputy Sheriff Brian Hudson told Mrs. Taylor that if she didn’t allow O’Keefe to enter, he would get a warrant. With that threat, Mrs. Taylor allowed O’Keefe to enter. Then, the social worker questioned the Taylor children with sexual innuendo and detail they had never heard before.
“Parents have the right to protect their children,” said Farris. “Social workers have too many times behaved as if they have an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against illegal searches and seizures. Judge Morrow did the right thing when she reinstated the Taylor case.”
A trial is set in Los Angeles federal court for February 1, 2000.

In re James and John K.
Filed November 24, 1999

SRS Files Complaint

Crawford County officials were not satisfied with the mere registration of this first-year home schooling family as an unaccredited school. When the family rebuffed efforts by Social and Rehabilitation Services to investigate their home instruction, the county attorney filed a complaint alleging that the children are in need of services because they are not attending school. Kansas attorney Kent Vincent has been retained to work with HSLDA in defense of these parents. A court services officer has been appointed by the judge to investigate the home instruction. Trial is scheduled for March 1, 2000.

Travers and Goulart v. Calvert County Board of Commissioners
To be filed soon

Community Center Discriminates Against Home Schoolers

The Northeast Community Center in Prince Frederick, Maryland, refuses to permit home schoolers to use its facility for meetings, workshops, or organized recreation of any kind. In response to HSLDA’s letter outlining the community center’s discrimination against home schoolers, the county board replied creatively: “The policy to which you object applies to all educational organizations, whether they are homeschoolers, parochial schools or independent private schools.” The correspondence to our office re-worded the county policy as follows: “not allowing the community centers to be used for formal education associated with meeting the State requirements for elementary or secondary education.” This alteration of the policy was obviously the recent work of the county board’s attorney. HSLDA has the actual policy in writing on three applications by our clients for community center use. Those applications read: “commissioners’ policy states that home schoolers may not use community centers.” Home school leaders in Calvert County will file a lawsuit in federal court.

In re Elizabeth S. (Hamilton County, OH)
Filed November 15, 1999


The 15-year-old daughter of a member family was prosecuted as an unruly child because she has been absent from the public school since the beginning of the school year. Ironically, the child has never attended public school. According to the mother, a notification was not sent this year because the mother was sick and then was afraid that her late notice would draw more attention than no notice. The moral: Late notification is better than no notification at all! Upon receipt of the late notification, the case was dismissed.

State v. Rebekah C (State Board of Ed, SD)
Filed August 27, 1999

South Dakota
Superintendent Denies Exemption

After the Watertown School District superintendent reviewed Mrs. C’s lesson plans and student portfolios, he denied her application for exemption. Mrs. C was not a member of HSLDA when she provided these materials in response to the illegal request. HSLDA has appealed the denial to the South Dakota Board of Education.

P E N D I N G   C A S E S


Harrahill v. City of Monrovia
Filed: 4/28/97, Los Angeles County.

Nature of Case: Five families challenged the constitutionality of the city’s daytime curfew ordinance.

Ruling: 1/27/99, by County Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl. The city’s daytime curfew ordinance contradicts state law and is, therefore, unconstitutional. The City of Monrovia promptly amended its ordinance in an effort to comport with the court’s ruling.

Status:HSLDA argued that the amended ordinance exceeds city council’s authority and is preempted by state law. The CA Court of Appeals ruled on 1/13/00 to remand the case to trial court for a ruling on the validity of the amended ordinance.

District of Columbia

New v. Perry
Filed: 1/16/96 (writ of habeas corpus), District of Columbia.

Nature of Case: A U.S. soldier ordered to wear UN uniform and become part of UN force, refused, citing unconstitutionality of U.S. soldiers donning the uniform of and fighting for a foreign government. He was court-martialed.

Ruling: On 11/25/97, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his request to hear the case in federal court, requiring New to first exhaust his military appeals. Supreme Court denied certiorari.

Status: On appeal in military courts.


In re: Heather B.
Filed: 10/6/99, Sumner County.

Nature of Case:A county attorney repeatedly demanded that parents complete a form detailing the home instruction program. The parents refused to give anything without a court order, so the county attorney filed a “child in need of care” petition. HSLDA filed a motion to dismiss since the petition admits that the family’s private, nonaccredited school is registered with the state board of education.

Status: County attorney dismissed case.


Hooks v. Clark County School District
Filed: 1/9/98, District of Nevada.

Nature of Case: Child denied special education services despite federal law requiring provision of such services to “all students.” Family has sued for services.

Ruling: On 10/23/98, federal district judge ruled that home school students in Nevada are not entitled to such services.

Status: On appeal to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Our brief was filed on 3/11/99. Oral argument not yet scheduled.

Note: The state legislature recently changed its law to specifically allow home school students to receive special education services. Now the court must decide whether the school district was obliged to provide services under federal law before the state law was amended.

New Jersey

Forstrom v. Fair Lawn School District
Filed: 2/5/98, Bergen County.

Nature of Case: The Forstrom’s son was denied special education services despite federal law requiring provision of such services to “all students.” The family sued to obtain services.

Ruling: On 10/29/99, court ruled for Forstroms, ordering child to benefit from state and federal funding. HSLDA anticipates appeal.

South Dakota

State v. Cutchin & State v. Nabholz
Filed: 5/20/99 & 9/8/99, Fall River County.

Nature of Case: Parents are being prosecuted for failure to file their children’s birth certificates with the school district. The statute states that the birth certificate should be filed with “the school.” Parents keep birth certificate on file at school the child attends (home school) rather than school the child has no affiliation with (public school). Parents contend school district’s interpretation of statute is incorrect and that the birth certificate statute is unconstitutionally vague.

Status: Oral argument scheduled 3/1/00.

West Virginia

State v. Mrs. S.
Filed: 9/22/99, Calhoun County.

Nature of Case: Primary issue is whether superintendent may reject portfolio review because he does not approve of certified teacher.

Status: Trial scheduled 2/18/00.