State supreme court hears case
On February 11, 2002, Home School Legal Defense Association argued on behalf of the Stumbo family's fourth amendment rights at a North Carolina Supreme Court hearing.
"The court was clearly engaged by the oral argument," said HSLDA General Counsel Mike Farris. "The justices were well-prepared and asked penetrating questions of both sides. The rights of parents to protect their homes and children from social workers bent on investigating rumors received a full hearing."
|In front of the North Carolina Justice Building: Back Row (L-R): HSLDA General Counsel Mike Farris, HSLDA Litigation Counsel Jim Mason, Jim Stumbo, local counsel Skip Stam, and Mary Ann Stumbo. Front Row (L-R): Stephen and Scott Stumbo.
The Stumbos' troubles began one warm September 1999 morning when their 2-year-old daughter slipped outside halfway through dressing-without any clothes-to chase her new kitten. Although an older sibling retrieved her a mere three minutes later, it was too late. A passerby reported the family to social services.
Two hours later, a social worker showed up at the Stumbos' door, demanding to enter their home and privately interview each child. At HSLDA's advice, the Stumbos refused to let the social worker in.
Despite having no probable cause for entry and private interviews, the social worker convinced a judge to issue a court order forcing the family to comply. HSLDA immediately challenged the order, but the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld it, deciding that the order did not constitute a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. The Stumbos then appealed to the supreme court, which heard the case in February. Several families demonstrated their support for all families' right to say "no" by attending the hearing. A decision is expected later this year.
Can parents "tutor"?
A single mother of two disabled, adopted children is being prosecuted because she has allegedly violated the qualified private tutor provisions in Pennsylvania law. Under state law, a certified teacher may tutor children, but according to the statute, the tutor must be both certified and compensated in some way in order to qualify. Although Mrs. P receives an adoption subsidy due to the special needs of her children, she is not directly compensated for her educational services.
At her trial on June 6, 2001, the district judge held that the statute requires compensation and found Mrs. P guilty. He fined her $5.00 and encouraged HSLDA to get this unfair situation "resolved" (e.g., "appealed").
Late breaking development: The appeal hearing was scheduled for March 11, 2002, but HSLDA convinced the state to drop the charges under a Pennsylvania law that requires judges to dismiss petty infractions.
DOE wants more information
The T family provided the Vermont Department of Education with HSLDA's recommended form signed by a certified teacher. The state statute requires that home schoolers submit only "independent professional evidence on whether the child is handicapped." The form developed by the state department of education, however, asks for the method of screening, the date of screening, and recommendations for further screening. Because the family refused to submit this additional information not required by statute, the commissioner of education called for a hearing which was held on March 8, 2002, to determine whether the T family's home school "can or will provide a minimum course of study." As this newsletter goes to press, we are awaiting the judge's ruling.