The Home School Court Report
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September / October 2003

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Competition grows in HSLDA's 2nd essay contest

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center by Claire Novak

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Parents face aggresive investigators

An anonymous tip landed the Wilkinses*, an HSLDA member family in Palm Bay, in the middle of a double investigation. First, the police showed up at the family's home to investigate an allegation that the father had been seen spanking their 2-year-old child in a parking lot. Explaining that he had given the child a few light swats on the diaper and showing the child to the police, the father demonstrated that there was no injury.

However, the police referred the incident to the Florida Department of Children and Families. Later, a social worker came to the family's door, talked with both parents, and observed the children. Although the social worker found no evidence of abuse, she demanded that the parents take 22 weeks of parenting classes, have a social worker visit monthly for an indefinite period of time, and sign a release allowing the social worker to obtain documents and medical records from any source the agency chose. Then she indicated that she would seek a court order if the family did not cooperate.

Refusing to be intimidated by these illegal demands, the family contacted Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka at Home School Legal Defense Association. When Klicka called the social worker, she insisted that the family was "at risk" because they have a "large family" (four children), they homeschool, and they do not have daily contact with trained people who can detect child abuse, such as daycare workers or public school administrators. She admitted that the children looked well cared for, there were no marks of abuse, and she had no concerns that abuse was taking place. Nevertheless, she insisted that she would need to get a court order if her earlier demands were not satisfied.

HSLDA immediately responded with a four-page letter citing Florida statute 39.01.2: "[C]orporal discipline of a child by a parent . . . for disciplinary purposes, does not constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child." This statute further explains that corporal punishment is only abusive if there are clear injuries (sprains, dislocations, or significant bruises).

In order for a child to be taken from a family or a court order issued, Klicka pointed out, there must be evidence of a substantial risk of imminent abuse or neglect. Recognizing she had no such evidence, the social worker withdrew her demands.

Christopher J. Klicka

* Name changed to protect family's privacy. See "HSLDA social services contact policy".