|In re S children|
Court dismisses complaint filed by relatives
Earlier this year, a relative filed a complaint in juvenile court alleging that the S family's children were being neglected educationally, despite the fact that the S family have been home schooling their children for the last six years.
Like many other states, Georgia allows "any person" to file and prosecute a complaint without the participation of any state agency. In response to the complaint, a social worker made an unannounced visit to the S home. She demanded to enter and interview all of their children outside of their parents' presence. However, Mr. and Mrs. S knew their rights and immediately called HSLDA. Our attorneys spoke with the social worker by phone—explaining that because she had no warrant, the family had a constitutional right to be free from search and seizure—and convinced the social worker to leave.
When the disgruntled relative took the S family to juvenile court, HSLDA defended the family and moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the children were not neglected and that the family was in compliance with Georgia's home school laws, as well as on the alternative ground that the statute allowing a relative to file a complaint is unconstitutional.
The juvenile judge granted our motion on the ground that the S children were not neglected. HSLDA is contemplating a separate lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the Georgia statute that allows relatives to prosecute home school families.
|State v. B|
Home school mom prosecuted
A home schooling mother in New Jersey is being prosecuted for failing to send her children to school because the local school district does not understand state law on home education.
Mrs. B has been home schooling for three years without any contact with the public school. However, in April, a truancy officer showed up at her door, saying that there was a report that her children were not in public school.
Mrs. B informed the officer that she was home schooling her four children. He then told her that she was required by law to send in a notice of intent to the superintendent.
New Jersey law does not require any such notice, but in a spirit of cooperation, Mrs. B sent a notice to the school district two days after the officer's visit. The local superintendent then wrote back, acknowledging her letter and asking that she notify him again at the beginning of each school year.
Unaware that the superintendent had acknowledged Mrs. B's home school, the principals of the two schools her children would have been attending filed charges against her for failure to send her children to school.
Home School Legal Defense Association contacted the superintendent, and he agreed that Mrs. B was in compliance with the state home school law. He offered to call the principals and get them to withdraw the complaints.
He later changed his mind, however, deciding that Mrs. B should have filed a notice of intent before each year that she home schooled. The problem with the superintendent's decision is that it does not match the policy of the New Jersey Department of Education, which states that home schoolers are not required to submit any notice. Thus, Mrs. B is being prosecuted for following state policy!
HSLDA is defending in court this mother's right to home school.
Court rules parents choose evaluators
After two years of litigation, Judge David Nibert of West Virginia's Circuit Court of Calhoun County has agreed with Home School Legal Defense Association that superintendents must accept the parent's choice of which certified teacher to use for year-end assessments. Superintendents do not have the power to approve or disapprove parents' selection.
"The court recognized the plain meaning of the law, putting school districts on notice that their policies cannot exceed the boundaries of the law," said HSLDA Litigation Counsel James Mason.
West Virginia home schooling law requires that home schooled students be evaluated annually by standardized testing, an assessment by a certified teacher or an assessment by any other process agreeable to both the school superintendent and the parents.
Unfortunately, the Calhoun County School District refused to accept evaluations from certified teachers if the superintendent did not agree with the parents' choice of teacher. Any family who failed to comply with the district's wishes found themselves the target of criminal truancy charges. Four families represented by Home School Legal Defense Association countered with a suit against the district.
Bevins was originally filed in April 2000. Both sides filed motions on March 9, 2001, requesting the judge rule without going to trial. HSLDA heard no word from Judge Nibert until he announced his decision on April 29, 2002.
The judge summarized his decision: "This court is in agreement, and hereby adopts, [HSLDA's] interpretation of West Virginia Code." HSLDA had argued that since the legislature had said that assessors could be "certified teachers or other person mutually agreed upon by the parent . . . and the county superintendent," parents had the right to choose a certified teacher without the agreement of the superintendent. The judge agreed "the Legislature intended a certified teacher to be automatically qualified to provide the written narrative."