Home Schooling Preserved for Special Needs Children
Visalia-Mr. and Mrs. T have adopted and are home schooling 11 special needs children. Following the accidental death of one of these children, Mr. and Mrs. T were arrested and all of their children removed by Tulare County Child Protective Services. The criminal charges were dismissed, but Mr. and Mrs. T remain embroiled in a battle for their children. Although the coroner has determined the death was accidental, CPS reviewed the childrens medical records for the last 15 years and alleges, based on the number of injuries, that the parents are guilty of physical abuse.
The juvenile court returned five children following an emergency hearing, but five others are still in foster care. When CPS petitioned the court to order all the T children into public school, Home School Legal Defense Association entered the case to defend the familys right to direct the education of their children. HSLDA presented CPS with a copy of Mr. and Mrs. Ts affidavit legally registering their private home-based program in the state of California.
Outside the courtroom before the October 31 hearing, HSLDA, three CPS attorneys, and two attorneys representing the children reached an agreement-Mr. and Mrs. T would home educate the children living with them while two volunteer families would home educate the children in foster care until the physical abuse allegations are decided in December. The volunteer families agreed to drive the T children to and from their homes for instruction as well as to open their homes for unannounced CPS visits. In addition, Jonathan Lindvalls Pilgrim School, a well-established private independent study program, agreed to enroll the T children and provide periodic reports to CPS. Later that day, the juvenile judge converted this agreement into a court order.
Now that the parents right to home school has been protected, HSLDA will withdraw and the T familys personal attorney will continue to defend the family against physical abuse charges.
Compromise Agreement Reached
Denver-The Colorado Department of Social Services (DSS) has charged Mrs. W with environmental neglect (messy house) and educational neglect of her 11-year-old special needs son. DSS also contends that this mother failed to file her notice of intent with the school district and to have her son evaluated, as required by law. HSLDA hired two experts to testify concerning the quality of education received by the boy, but reached a compromise with DSS on the eve of the trial. Mrs. W agreed to have her son assessed at The Childrens Hospital and then to provide him instruction to meet the academic needs identified. Upon delivery of an evaluation at the end of the school year showing that this child is making sufficient progress according to his ability, the case will terminate.
Editors note: This is the conclusion of the Denver case mentioned in A Week in the Life of David Gordon, September/ October 2000 Court Report.
Neglect Charges Dismissed
Atchison County-Educational neglect charges were dropped after HSLDA attorneys demonstrated that the M familys school is properly registered with the state and has significant planning, scheduling, and testing. We provided a copy of the curriculum and lesson plans for one month in order to gain the dismissal.
Northampton-Although Megans mother had provided the Northampton School Department (NSD) with a list of her texts and materials, the school district filed a petition alleging that Megan is a child in need of services (CHINS). NSD requires home school applicants to do several things that exceed Massachusetts law. For instance, the district requires parents to meet with the superintendent to explain and clarify the responsibility of both the school committee and the parents. In addition, parents must provide daily total hours of instruction.
Northampton Public Schools holds that they must have access to the textbooks, workbooks and other instructional aids to be used by the children and the lesson plans and teaching manuals to be used by the parents. And that the superintendent or school committee may require periodic standardized testing of the children to ensure educational progress.
HSLDA believes these requirements are neither reasonable nor essential and will be defending Megans mother from the allegations of educational neglect.
Hooks v. Clark County School District
Court Upholds Denial of Special Services
Clark County-Nine-year-old Christopher Hooks was home educated according to Nevada law, but qualified for speech therapy. When his parents requested those services from the school district, the district refused to provide the services. On behalf of the Hookses, HSLDA challenged the districts decision in federal court.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides for special services for children placed by their parents in private schools. The statute does not, however, define the term private school, so that was the issue confronting the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit held that the IDEA leaves discretion to the states to determine whether home educated students are in an IDEA-qualifying private school. Since the Nevada Department of Education determined that home schools are not such a qualifying school, the Ninth Circuit ruled for the school district and refused to order services for Christopher.
However, Christopher is now eligible to receive services in Nevada. After the Hooks case was filed in 1997, Nevada law was changed to provide that each local school district shall provide special education and related services to children who receive instruction at home.
Judge Sticks to Deadline
Titusville-The local school district filed a truancy complaint against Mrs. P, alleging that her teenage daughter had 10 unexcused absences following the girls withdrawal from school. Although Mrs. P was home schooling the girl during this time, unfortunately, this mother failed to file the required affidavit with the school district before commencing her home instruction. At trial, the judge agreed that the mother did not intentionally violate the compulsory attendance statute, but strictly applied the requirement that the affidavit be filed before commencing home instruction. Mrs. P was found guilty and ordered to pay $150 plus court costs. HSLDA agreed to represent Mrs. P on appeal to the Court of Common Pleas, but she elected to conclude the matter by paying the fine and costs.
Bevins, et al. v. Blankenship, et al.
Seven Families Refuse Illegal Demands
Calhoun County-On behalf of several member families, HSLDA filed a lawsuit last summer to challenge, among other things, a school district policy that requires home schoolers to appear before the school board to answer questions about their curriculum and home instruction program. While the case was pending, the school district promulgated a policy called Home Instruction Guidelines. These guidelines contained numerous illegal demands, such as making parents demonstrate how their program satisfies the 232-page West Virginia Instructional Goals and Objectives for public schools.
HSLDA immediately amended our complaint to include this document and issued subpoenas for the depositions of the state superintendent of schools, the state home school liaison, and the local superintendent of schools. In addition, we prepared to take the deposition of a public school teacher in every grade, asking each to demonstrate that his program satisfies the state Instructional Goals and Objectives. The school district then withdrew its Guidelines and confirmed the home instruction programs of the seven families who refused to comply with the illegal demands.
Oral arguments are scheduled for November 17 on two remaining issues: (1) whether the school superintendent may reject an annual narrative review from a certified teacher he does not know, and (2) whether the school district may criminally prosecute a home instructor whose notice of intent does not satisfy the district.