Single mother wins civil rights case
Mrs. B, a single mother, pulled her 8-year-old son out of public school because he was having difficulty learning. Since beginning home schooling, the boy has improved to the point where he is now at grade level in all subjects.
However, Ventura County reduced the amount of Mrs. B's Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), saying that her son was not enrolled "in school," even though she had filed her affidavit as a private school and was in compliance with the private school law of California.
Because Home School Legal Defense Association believes that home schoolers should not be punished by the government for exercising their constitutional right to home school, and because a bad decision in this case could have affected home schoolers throughout the state, HSLDA attorneys Mike Smith and David Gordon represented Mrs. B at the August 1 administrative hearing to appeal the reduction in her benefits.
Smith argued that Ventura County's action was unlawful because Mrs. B had established a private school in her home and that her school was in compliance with all the education code requirements. Therefore, her 8-year-old son was lawfully exempt from public school attendance.
Agreeing with HSLDA, the judge ruled on September 13 that Ventura County had incorrectly reduced Mrs. B's benefits and had failed to provide the written standards they used to define regular school attendance.
Noting that other school districts in the state of California and even within Ventura County allow home schooling (although Mrs. B's school district does not), the judge indicated that Ventura County's school attendance policy may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Based on this ruling, the judge found no need to address the legitimacy of Mrs. B's private school. Now, the county must reevaluate its policy that home schooling parents cannot establish a private school in their home unless they are certified teachers.
School district alleges child in need of care and protection
In late May 2001, Ms. C notified the Worcester Public Schools of her intent to immediately begin home schooling her daughter. Several months later in a letter dated September 21, the school psychologist informed this mother that a meeting was necessary to process the "application" for home schooling. However, the day before the psychologist's letter was written, a complaint was filed against Ms. C for failure to cause her daughter to attend school.
HSLDA will represent Ms. C at the hearing on November 20.
Parents penalized for withholding phone number
This member family filled out West Bridgewater Public School District's Home Schooling Information form, but naturally did not include their unlisted personal phone number. Unfortunately, the school committee responded by voting to deny the family's request to provide a home education program for "lack of phone contact."
However, neither the Massachusetts statute relating to home education (Massachusetts Annotated Laws ch. 76 § 1) nor the leading Massachusetts case, The Care and Protection of Charles, state that a family must supply a telephone number. Therefore, a school committee does not have the power to require a phone number.
HSLDA believes that this situation may have deeper ramifications with respect to the policy of some Massachusetts school districts to insist upon face-to-face meetings with parents. We are working with the family to appeal this denial.