The Home School Court Report
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September / October 2003

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Wandering child draws social worker

On May 27, Nicole Culley of the Franklin County Child Protection Service (CPS) left her business card at a Home School Legal Defense Association member family's home. When Mrs. English* called Culley a few days later, she was told that CPS had received an anonymous tip that the family's 4-year-old Down-syndrome daughter had been seen walking unattended in the street outside their house.

When Culley began asking more questions regarding the family's children, Mrs. English declined to answer. "Do you know what our agency does?" Culley asked, adding, "Do you know what we can do?"

Heaping time pressure on top of intimidation, the social worker claimed she had to fill out a report on the family that day. If the Englishes did not answer her questions later that afternoon, Culley threatened to go to the judge, who would send his officers to "bring you down and answer my questions!"

Immediately after this phone conversation, Mrs. English called HSLDA and spoke with Attorney Scott Woodruff, who drafted a letter on the family's behalf, informing Culley that when she threatened to "bring [the Englishes] down," she was violating their constitutional rights. He also assured Culley that Mr. and Mrs. English are responsible and loving parents, who provide care for their children far above the level of mere adequacy.

On June 2, Woodruff received a letter from Mary Pulcini Lebedowicz, an attorney for the Franklin County Office of Family and Children. Lebedowicz stated that there were no legal actions pending against the family, and that Culley was only fulfilling her obligation to Indiana law by investigating an anonymous tip.

On HSLDA's advice, Mrs. English allowed the social worker an extremely brief interview with the older children (not the 4-year-old). The perfunctory interviews exonerated the parents, and the case was subsequently closed.

Scott A. Woodruff

* Name changed to protect family's privacy.