Mother charged with violating compulsory attendance law
Agreeing to put Mary S's May 25 trial on hold, the Howard County prosecutor gave this home schooling mother more time to obtain formal recognition of her Catholic home school program.
Maryland law requires home school families to either be supervised by a church-related school or institution, or submit a portfolio to the local school system periodically for approval. Mary S has sincerely held religious convictions against her children's education being subject to the approval of the public school system, but could not find a church-related school she felt comfortable with. When she found Our Lady of the Rosary, a reputable national Roman Catholic curriculum, she thought she had solved the problem. However, the State of Maryland had not officially recognized this program, and Howard County public schools charged her with 72 counts of criminal truancy.
Home School Legal Defense Association believes that the absence of a Catholic church-related school under which Mrs. S may educate is a violation of her free exercise of religion and her right to direct the education of her child. HSLDA and the prosecutor agreed to remove the case from the calendar for one year during which time Mary will work toward an acceptable church-related school.
Case on appeal to state supreme court
In a split decision on May 15, the North Carolina Court of Appeals failed to rule that a child abuse investigation is a "search" covered by U.S. civil rights protections. This ruling was a result of HSLDA's appeal of the trial judge's January 25, 2000, ruling that social workers are not "state actors," that a child neglect investigation is not a "search," and that the Fourth Amendment did not provide the parents with a "lawful excuse" to refuse entry.
But the Stumbos, an HSLDA member family from Cleveland County, contend that social workers are bound to obey the U.S. Constitution, and that a child abuse investigation is a "search."
The North Carolina Court of Appeals voted 2-1 against the family. According to the majority opinion, "this case involves neither a search nor a seizure and, therefore, does not implicate [the Stumbos'] Fourth Amendment rights."
However, the dissenting judge said, "Entry into the home of a person suspected of child abuse/ neglect by the Director for the purpose of ascertaining if the child has been abused/neglected is a search by a government actor and thus implicates the Fourth Amendment." The dissenting vote guarantees the family an automatic appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
This incident that led to this case began innocently enough at about 7:00 a.m. on the morning of September 9, 1999. Behaving as any normal 2 year old might, the Stumbos' daughter failed to put all her clothes on before running out the front door to retrieve her pet kitten. Although her older brother caught her and had her back inside within about three minutes, someone lodged an anonymous report with the authorities. Two hours later a social worker arrived, without a search warrant, demanding to enter and interview all the children. The Stumbos contacted HSLDA. When the family refused to waive their constitutional right to the privacy of their home, the social worker filed suit.
Federal and state courts have already ruled in other cases that social workers are subject to the Constitution.
Compulsory attendance conviction
This single mother of two disabled, adopted children is being prosecuted because she is allegedly in violation of the qualified private tutor provisions in Pennsylvania law. Mrs. P is a certified teacher, but according to the statute, a tutor must be both certified and compensated in some way in order to qualify. Mrs. P receives an adoption subsidy due to the special needs of her children, but she is not directly compensated for her educational services. A criminal complaint was filed in district justice court alleging that Mrs. P is in violation of compulsory attendance law.
At the trial on June 6, 2001, HSLDA argued that the statute requiring that a private tutor be compensated is an unconstitutional infringement upon Mrs. P's right to direct the education of her child. Although the district judge held that the statute requires compensation, and felt bound to find Mrs. P guilty, he merely fined her $5.00 and encouraged HSLDA to get this unfair situation "resolved" (read "appeal"). We will appeal to the court of common pleas.
DMV suspends home school teen's license
On April 24, 2001, 16-year-old Amanda L's driver's license was suspended by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at the request of the local school superintendent when her parents did not give notice of their intent to home school Amanda for the 2000-01 school year.
Not only is Amanda beyond the age of compulsory attendance (16), but under West Virginia law she is entitled to maintain a driver's license if she remains "enrolled in a secondary school in this state or any other state." She is enrolled in a distance learning academy in Pennsylvania that is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council and licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools. Nevertheless, her license was suspended.
HSLDA is preparing to file a petition in Berkeley County Circuit Court for judicial review of the commissioner's decision.