Police dept. threatens home schoolers
Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston, Texas, has been sending out a letter on police department letterhead insisting that homeschoolers use its Exemption Questionnaire. Although this form is not required by law, the letter states, "Failure to comply immediately with these laws could result in legal prosecution and, if convicted, could subject you to a Class C misdemeanor and a fine up to $500 per offense."
To support this position, the district purports to quote the case that established the legality of home schooling in Texas, Leeper v. Arlington School District:
School attendance officers are not prohibited from making reasonable inquiry to determine whether a school age child is in attendance upon a private or parochial school and from initiating prosecution under appropriate law if a determination is made that a school age child is not in attendance at a private or parochial school as declared by this court, or if the parents of, or those standing in parental relationship to, such child fail to reasonably cooperate with a reasonable inquiry.
When Home School Legal Defense Association members brought this letter to the attention of our attorneys, we were puzzled by the Leeper quote referring to the duty of parents to "reasonably cooperate." We immediately scoured the Leeper district court opinion, court of appeals opinion, and state supreme court opinion, but found that the section quoted by Spring Branch does not exist. Unfortunately, this intentional misinformation has intimidated a number of home school families. HSLDA promptly asked the Spring Branch Police Department to correct their quote. (The actual Leeper decision states that the school attendance officers may make a reasonable inquiry, but there is no requirement for parents to reasonably cooperate under the penalty of prosecution.)
HSLDA is amazed at the inaccurate information that school districts sometimes use to intimidate home schoolers to comply with policies having no legal basis. HSLDA also found that Spring Branch was trying to use the same questionnaire previously circulated by the Quinland school district in 1992. The only difference was that Quinland did not misquote the Leeper case.
Since the beginning of the school year, HSLDA member families have faced several confrontations with other school districts. In McKinney and Plano, parents who tried to withdraw their special needs children from public school were told they must attend future Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings. HSLDA informed these districts that the jurisdiction of federal and state regulations over special needs children ends when the parents voluntarily remove their children from public school to educate them privately. Both districts promptly dropped the matter.
In Troup, a family withdrawing their children from public school were told that they must submit the name of their curriculum provider. HSLDA informed the district that there was no such requirement in Texas law.
- Christopher J. Klicka