The Home School Court Report
VOLUME XVI, NUMBER 4
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JULY / AUGUST 2000
Cover
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Cover Story
Average Families with Outstanding Courage

Special Features

Home Schoolers Making Headlines

HSLDA Debate Tournament: Final Round

National Center Reports

HSLDA Testifies on NAEP Reform

IRS Fines Families for Refusing SSNs

In Our Prayers: The Passing of Sen. Coverdell

Across the States

State by State

Regular Features

In the Trenches

Active Cases

Pending Cases

Staff News

Prayer and Praise

Presidents Page

F. Y. I.

The Widows Curriculum Scholarship Fund

L  I  T  I  G  A  T  I  O  N     R  E  P  O  R  T
Active Cases

Stone v. Ankeny School District

Iowa
College Funds Denied to Dual Enrollees

A dual enrolled home school student has been denied funds for community college courses—money that is available to public and accredited nonpublic high school students who are dual enrolled. The school district’s decision was based on a declaratory ruling issued by the Iowa Department of Education seven years ago. Though state law provides dual enrolled students with access to all educational benefits available in the district, the DOE ruling concludes that the state legislature could not have intended to include dual enrolled students in the college course benefit because it might cost too much. The interpretation of a statute should not be based upon a cost analysis. Home School Legal Defense Association will represent this family on the appeal.

In re Family of C.

Maine
DHS Relents

In spite of a letter from the school district confirming the right of Mrs. C to teach her special needs child at home, the Maine Department of Human Services (DHS) threatened to remove the child if not satisfied with the mother’s program. With the support of special education consultant, Kathi Kearney, and a pediatrician who recommended home education, HSLDA defended this mother’s right to home school, and the department was forced to close its file. Though this experience was painful for the C family, it educated DHS regarding the benefits of home education and may result in greater freedom for other home schooling families in Maine.

In the interest of J.B.

Missouri
1000 Hours Strictly Enforced

Missouri Department of Social Services brought a petition alleging educational neglect regarding an eight year old. The child has severe developmental problems, including the fact that he does not speak in complete sentences. Even though the parents are in compliance with the home school statute for 1999–2000, their failure to log 1000 hours for 1998–99 resulted in a finding of neglect. Educational psychologist Steven DuVall testified on behalf of the family that their current program is superior to what is customarily taught in the public schools and it is meeting the special needs of the child, but the court was not interested. The fact that there were not 1000 hours of instruction in 1998–99 could not be overcome. An appeal is being proposed.

In re Shanovia B
Filed April 18, 2000

New York
Family Escapes DSS

These parents withdrew their 11-year-old daughter with special needs from public school in February, but were tardy in filing their individual home instruction plan (IHIP) with the school district. The Bronx County Department of Social Services commenced an investigation, but the family would not permit interview of the child. HSLDA explained to DSS that an IHIP was forthcoming as soon as the specialized curriculum was received from a consultant. But DSS would not wait. A petition was filed alleging educational neglect. While this litigation was pending, HSLDA continued to refuse the interview of the child, as well as the review of educational materials and methods by the social worker. When the school district acknowledged receipt of a completed IHIP, we requested a voluntary dismissal of the case. Three weeks later, DSS dismissed the case.

In re children of Justus

North Carolina
Parents Prevail over DSS

Following more than two years of struggle with Transylvania County Department of Social Services, physical and legal custody of their three young children was returned to Mr. and Mrs. Justus. Despite the return of custody in October 1999, DSS moved the court to order the children to attend public school. According to DSS, a prior finding of neglect on the part of the mother necessitated daily monitoring of the children by a public school teacher. HSLDA defended the right of these parents to educate their children at home free from the supervision of the DSS or the public schools. The court agreed and overruled the DSS motion in June 2000.

State v. Mrs. P
Filed May 24, 2000

Pennsylvania
Belated Affidavits Cause Trouble

Though Pennsylvania law requires the filing of a notarized affidavit before commencing home instruction, Mrs. P withdrew her two children from public school without filing. She withdrew her 13-year-old child in late February and her 15-year-old child in early May. On May 22, 2000, she filed the requisite affidavits with the school district. On May 22 and 23, 2000, a school official filed complaints alleging the unlawful absence of each daughter from the date of the withdrawal to the time of the affidavit. At trial of the criminal charges on July 12, 2000, Mrs. P. was acquitted.

State v. Mrs. E
Filed April 3, 2000

Texas
School Causes Anxiety

Mrs. E withdrew her 4th grade son, suffering from school-induced anxiety, from public elementary school on February 2, 2000, and began home education. Mrs. E told the school diagnostician that they were going to home school until the child’s anxiety subsided. In April, the parents provided a letter of assurance to the school superintendent—indicating that they intended to continue home schooling. Later the same week, charges were brought against the mother to prosecute her in the justice court for allegedly “thwarting compulsory attendance.” Once HSLDA explained to the attendance officer that the children were properly withdrawn from the public school and were being provided a private education, the charges were dismissed.

In re T.M.

Vermont
Supreme Court Rebukes Commissioner

On an appeal of a juvenile court’s “child in need of services” (CHINS) finding based upon truancy, the state supreme court held that the trial court had misconstrued the home study statute. Recounting the numerous instances in the record in which the juvenile court focused upon whether the home study program was “approved,” the supreme court explained that the statute does not confer authority upon the commissioner of education to “approve” programs. Vermont, according to the court, is a notice state and the commissioner’s response to notice is clearly delineated by statute. In the case of Karen Maple, her notice to the commissioner constituted the enrollment of her son, regardless of the fact that the commissioner claimed by letter that he was withholding approval until special education issues were resolved. If he was dissatisfied with the notice, the commissioner’s only option was to order a hearing. Having failed to do so, the child was enrolled and the CHINS finding was reversed.

In re child R
March 17, 2000

Virginia
Case Dismissed

After home schooling for six years without providing a notice to the school district regarding their intent, the family’s 15-year old son was prosecuted for truancy. Two other children have already graduated from the home school program. In response to the criminal complaint, the family filed the requisite notice and the charges were dropped, but not before a court appearance and much anguish. This prosecution represents a Goochland County crackdown against home schoolers that has sometimes exceeded the bounds of the law. In fact, the complaint filed against Sterling was unlawful in that a notice of unexcused absence did not precede it, nor did an individual authorized by state law to file a truancy complaint file it. The case was dismissed.

Commonwealth v. Sterling B
Filed March 11, 2000

Charges Dismissed

Because Mrs. R refused to provide the school district with the basis for her religious exemption, her daughter was prosecuted as a child in need of services. HSLDA intervened on behalf of the family, met with the officials involved, and ultimately obtained a dismissal of the charges.