Social workers pay $40,000
A home schooling family's civil rights lawsuit against two San Bernardino County social workers has been settled for $40,000. When the social workers had insisted upon entry into the DeSantis home in 1999 to investigate allegations of physical abuse, Mrs. DeSantis told them, "You do not have my consent to enter, but the gate is open." They pushed through the gate, marched into the house, strip-searched the two younger children, and subjected the 7-year-old to a traumatizing private interview. The DeSantis family sued the social workers for violating their Fourth Amendment right against entry without a warrant.
Charges against mother dismissed
The Colorado Department of Social Services (DSS) charged Mrs. W with environmental neglect (messy house) and educational neglect of her 11-year-old special needs son. DSS contended that this mother failed to file her notice of intent with the school district and to have her son evaluated, as required by law. The petition also alleged that the child had "not been formally enrolled in school for at least three years," that "he seems significantly delayed in his academic abilities," and that he "appears to be socially isolated."
Home School Legal Defense Association retained 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. According to the agreement, Ms. W had her son evaluated at The Children's Hospital. The formal written evaluation recommended certain services. Ms. Williams has the right to receive or reject the services, but has been receiving them. The case has been dismissed.
Community centers discriminate
The community centers in Calvert County refuse to permit home schoolers to use their facilities for classes, workshops, or organized recreation of any kind. In this case, our clients' requests to use the rooms for weekly meetings of a fiber arts club and a geography club were refused. We have 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." However, these rooms are generally available to all other citizens for activities similar to those desired by the two families who were denied. In fact, no other groups or legal activities are excluded from use.
When a governmental entity opens its facility to the general use of the public, as Calvert County has done with its community centers, the entity may not deny the use of the facilities by particular groups or for particular purposes. The county claims its centers are limited public facilities like prisons and the auditorium at the FBI building. It will be up to the court to decide whether the county's practice and policy with respect to the community centers has made them public forums generally available to the community whose exclusions are subject to strict scrutiny.
HSLDA filed a lawsuit on January 31, 2000, asking the United States District Court at Baltimore to declare Calvert's policy a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. We are waiting for the court to set a hearing date for oral arguments on cross-motions for summary judgment.
Materials and records subpoenaed
Following a false report that Mr. and Mrs. D's daughter cannot read, the Charles County Attorney subpoenaed this member family's home school materials and records pursuant to a statute that authorizes such subpoenas during a criminal investigation. HSLDA advised the county attorney that the child was not subject to compulsory attendance at the beginning of the school year and sent him a birth certificate to prove it.
The compulsory attendance statute's school year runs from July 1 to June 30. Our member's daughter did not turn 7 until July 19, 2000. According to the statute, the child was not 7 at the beginning of the school year and could not be required to attend school in the 2000-01 school term.
On June 21, 2001, at the hearing on the motion to quash the subpoena, the county attorney agreed to withdraw his request for records and the case was dismissed.
Court upholds special education ruling
The Forstroms' son was denied speech therapy, despite state law requiring such services for "nonpublic" school students and federal law requiring such services for "private" school students. On October 29, 1999, the trial court ruled in favor of the Forstroms, ordering the child to benefit from both state and federal funding. The school district and state department of education appealed.
On May 21, 2001, the appellate court unanimously affirmed the trial court's order to provide speech and language services to Gregory Forstrom. Though the court concluded that a home school is not a "nonpublic school" for state special education benefits, nor a "private school" for federal special education benefits, the denial of speech and language benefits to Gregory was a violation of equal protection. Because Gregory was willing to come to the public school to receive the therapy in a group setting, there was no rational basis for treating him differently from private schoolers who would receive those same services. Since this is typically the kind of service that our members want, and the kind of service that the federal funds provide, the case is a victory for home schoolers.
Appeal to state supreme court
Following a divided North Carolina Court of Appeals ruling on May 15, HSLDA filed an appeal on June 19 to the state supreme court.
This case began at 7:00 a.m. one warm fall morning, when the Stumbo family's 2-year-old daughter—without her clothes—slipped outside in pursuit of her kitten. A mere three minutes later, her older brother had brought her back inside. But, within two hours, a social worker arrived, demanding to enter the home and individually interview each child without the presence of their parents. The family refused and DSS filed a petition alleging "interference with a child abuse investigation."
On January 25, 2000, the trial judge ruled 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.
Nearly a year-and-a-half later, on May 15, 2001, a divided North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the social services investigation was not a "search" and therefore, the Fourth Amendment did not apply. The appeals court found that the social worker was not insisting upon entry into the home, nor was she statutorily required to do so. Judge Greene dissented, however, insisting that social services investigations are "searches" and are subject to the Constitution. Judge Greene's dissent guarantees the Stumbos the right to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Wrongfully arrested parents cleared
Home schooling parents Gerald and Angela Balderson were falsely arrested Friday, March 17, 2000, after truancy charges were filed against them by Bryan Almasian, assistant principal at Richmond County Elementary School.
As required by law, the Baldersons had notified their superintendent of their intention to home school on February 25, 2000. Nevertheless, Mr. and Mrs. Balderson were summoned to the sheriff's office for booking on charges of compulsory attendance law violation. They were charged for their 8-year-old son's absences in February until the time of the criminal complaint, March 17. HSLDA was able to intervene on behalf of the Baldersons at that time by notifying the school district in writing of this apparent error. The case against the Baldersons was promptly dismissed.