HSLDA attorneys on call 24 hours a day
written by Christopher J. Klicka, Esq.
Home School Legal Defense Association provides an emergency hotline for members to call at night or on weekends or holidays. This allows us to fully serve any member who is contacted by a social worker or truant officer during hours HSLDA's office is not open.
About the author
As Senior Counsel for Home School Legal Defense Association, Chris has intervened on behalf of thousands of home school families across the country threatened by prosecutors, social workers, and truant officers. A popular national speaker, he is the author of The Right Choice: Home Schooling and several other books. Chris and his wife, Tracy, educate their seven children at home.
For many years, home schoolers facing that surprise knock on their door have utilized this hotline to gain instant legal advice and representation.
The HSLDA attorneys share a rotating on-call schedule. To get an idea of the kinds of emergency calls they receive, let's take a peek at Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka's log for the weekend of February 16-18, 2001.
6:00 p.m. An alarmed family in Fairfax County, Virginia, asked HSLDA for help with an urgent truancy contact. Although the family was legally operating under religious exemption, a local truancy officer had instructed the mother to call him within 24 hours or he would return with a search warrant. Attorney Klicka helped the family draft a letter describing their religious beliefs to the school board, thus avoiding further harassment.
8:05 p.m. A California member was being harassed by Child Protective Services. The father has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. Acting on false allegations regarding the cleanliness of the home, CPS gave him an ultimatum to be answered by Tuesday, February 20. If he would sign papers agreeing to six months of surveillance visits by a social worker, CPS would drop the investigation. HSLDA attorneys were able to help resolve the situation to the family's satisfaction.
8:19 p.m. Members in New Hampshire had just received a note from Health and Human Services regarding an alleged of lack of supervision of their children. Klicka counseled the family to give minimal information to the social worker to resolve the contact.
Saturday, Feb. 17
Social services investigation cases and HSLDA policy
We desire to assist and advise our members in every contact with a social worker and/or police officer in investigations resulting from allegations of abuse or neglect. If home schooling is an issue, we will represent our member families until the issue is resolved.
On Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure issues, HSLDA will assist and advise our members whenever the privacy of their home is violated by forced or coerced entry for the purpose of an unsubstantiated investigation.
HSLDA membership benefits do not extend to court actions resulting from non-home schooling matters. However, in circumstances where there is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, HSLDA may, as we have done in the past, choose to take the cases in an effort to establish legal precedent.
12:30 p.m. In January, a single mother had moved from another state to Henrico County, Virginia. She called HSLDA on Saturday, shocked to have received a letter dated February 6, indicating that the school district planned to file a petition of truancy against her on February 13. The mother, who is home schooling her special needs child, had previously notified under the fourth option in Virginia, which required her to demonstrate that her curriculum met the state's standards of learning objectives for language arts and math. She was understandably upset with this rude welcome to Virginia.
Klicka promised to follow up with the school district and, the following Tuesday, he was able to get the petition of truancy cancelled. He also persuaded the school district to formally recognize the home school program by simply having the mother submit a copy of the table of contents for her books covering language arts and math.
3:45 p.m. A member in Ohio called after being visited by the local child welfare agency. The social worker wanted to meet with the entire family, including their eight children, on the following Tuesday. The family was turned in by a neighbor—the local school superintendent—on allegations pertaining to their oldest daughter. Although there was no evidence of abuse, the social worker insisted on interviewing all the children. Attorney Klicka extensively counseled the family and worked to postpone the scheduled meeting. This contact is still being worked on by HSLDA attorneys.
Monday, Feb. 19
8:43 a.m. A family from Indiana called. The Department of Child Welfare Services had contacted them in regard to their home schooling. HSLDA provided the appropriate legal advice and the situation was subsequently resolved.
11:20 a.m. An HSLDA member from Kansas had taken her home schooled child to the emergency room for a slight injury. One of the nurses asked about the child's immunizations. The mother explained that she did not do immunizations and understood that it was her right. The nurse immediately became upset and told her that she would turn them in to the Social and Rehabilitative Services Agency. HSLDA helped the mother write a religious exemption letter to immunizations to provide to social services.
5:15 p.m. A home school father from Iowa called. His wife had taken their two children to a dentist and the dentist discovered four cavities in the mouth of one child. The dentist wanted to work on the cavities immediately, but the mother declined, saying she wanted to make an appointment with the local university's dental school so that she could acquire fillings for her son at a lower cost. Upset, the dentist turned the family in to the Child Welfare Service. The father called HSLDA's emergency number when the CWS worker arrived. Over the telephone, Klicka talked with the social worker, explaining she could not enter the house to talk with the children. He prepared the father to explain the situation to the social worker.
The father handled her well. He questioned her request to examine his son's teeth, "Are you a dentist?" She replied, "No," but asserted that she needed to make sure the child was healthy. The father responded, "Are you a doctor?" Again she answered no, and this time stated that she needed to make sure the children were alive. We were able to convince the social worker that she could easily confirm that the children were alive and healthy without conducting invasive private interviews or going on dental explorations. The social worker agreed to drop the case as unfounded and the contact was resolved.
HSLDA was able either to resolve the families' legal contacts immediately or prescribe steps to settle the matter in the coming weeks.
Contacts from social service agencies can be intimidating. That's why it's so important for every home schooling family to know their constitutional rights and know their state home school law thoroughly. You can access your state law at any time on HSLDA's website, www.hslda.org.
More than that, HSLDA is available to help you. We put feet on our promises to be there for you—24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We want to provide our members with the best possible assistance and advice in every contact with a social worker and/or police officer regarding allegations of abuse or neglect.