|| LITIGATION SUMMARIES
Stumbo victory prevents needless investigation
In July 2003, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in the Stumbo case that social workers may not investigate a family without probable cause to believe that actual abuse or neglect is occurring. A similar case recently unfolded in North Carolina, and Home School Legal Defense Association won a positive outcome based on the Stumbo precedent. (See "Turning the Tide" in the July/August 2003 Home School Court Report, available online at www.hslda.org/courtreport.)
Case: Robeson County Dept. of Social Services v. B Family|
On the evening of Monday, August 18, 2003, Mrs. Beryl*, an HSLDA member, was admitted to the hospital for emergency care and was told that she would need to remain until the hospital could schedule a test for her. Over the next two days, Mr. Beryl left his 121/2-year-old and 111/2-year-old sons to babysit their 51/2-year-old brother while he went to work, 10 minutes away. He was only gone a few hours each day.
That Wednesday evening, a social worker from the Robeson County Deptartment of Social Services (DSS) came to the house, claiming there was a report that Mr. and Mrs. Beryl left their "9-year-old son home alone every day to care for younger children." Mr. Beryl allowed the social worker to see the children, but would not submit to her unconstitutional demands to talk to the children alone and to conduct an inspection of the home. The next day, when another social worker showed up at the hospital, Mrs. Beryl confirmed that the older boys had babysat on the previous two days and that the allegations were false.
On August 22, DSS filed a petition for a non-interference order, renewing its demand to interrogate the children and inspect the Beryl home. HSLDA immediately filed a motion opposing this intrusion, arguing that Stumbo required DSS to close its file once it learned that the allegations were false. The juvenile judge agreed and dismissed the noninterference petition without even holding a hearing.
Note: For a more detailed report on this case, visit www.hslda.org/legal.
HSLDA defends family from harassment
Even though Pennsylvania has one of the most stringent homeschool laws in the country, superintendents and school districts attempt every year to make homeschooling even harder for families. This year, Home School Legal Defense Association is defending a family who has been called to a special hearing to defend their compliance with the law.
Case: Norwin School District v. P Family|
In accordance with their religious beliefs, Dr. and Mrs. Springer* have been homeschooling their son Ian* for four years. In May 2003, they received a letter from their local assistant superintendent, Dr. Brent, demanding that Mrs. Springer schedule an appointment with him to review Ian's progress. The letter stated that if they did not contact the school district office to schedule an appointment, one would be set for her, since such a meeting was required by the home education law.
Mrs. Springer immediately contacted HSLDA, who responded to Dr. Brent, explaining that the law did not require such a meeting and that the Springers declined to meet with him.
After the Springers submitted Ian's portfolio at the end of the school year, they received another letter from Dr. Brent, insisting that the portfolio include records of Ian's daily performance in his subjects. Dr. Brent also claimed that the log should include the day and date of instruction and indicate what was covered in each subject area each day. As HSLDA pointed out in our next letter to Dr. Brent, according to law, the portfolio must contain a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, but it does not have to be a daily log. The portfolio and log Mrs. Springer had already submitted complied with this requirement. She had also gone above and beyond the regulations by submitting an evaluation by a certified teacher clearly demonstrating Ian's progress. Her log showed that Ian had read over 100 books during his 4th grade year.
"The most frustrating aspect of this case," said James R. Mason, III, Litigation Counsel for HSLDA, "is that there is absolutely no question that Ian is receiving a superb education. His mother holds a masters degree in education, and his father holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and is a part-time college professor. Ian's test scores last year placed him in the 92nd percentile of other third graders-even though, according to his age, he should have been in the 2nd grade last year and in 3rd this year."
At first, Dr. Brent threatened truancy charges against the Springers, but HSLDA quickly pointed him to the homeschool statute, which requires a hearing before an impartial hearing examiner in situations where the superintendent questions whether adequate education is occurring. Dr. Brent initially called a hearing for September 18. After receiving HSLDA's brief and an expert report from Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, he postponed the hearing until November.
Dr. Brent has not said that he believes Mrs. Springer is not providing an adequate education for Ian; he has merely stated that Mrs. Springer's log does not meet his requirements. According to the homeschool law, this is not a valid reason to hold a hearing. Instead, the question before the hearing examiner will be whether "appropriate education" has occurred, and HSLDA is confident that the excellence of Ian's home education will be clearly shown.
It appears that Dr. Brent has routinely required face-to-face meetings with all homeschoolers in his district and that he has accepted portfolios he considered deficient if the parent agreed to meet with him. This was true of Mrs. Springer last year, when Dr. Brent scolded her for not having all the technical jots and tittles in place in her portfolio, but nevertheless acknowledged after she met with him that appropriate education had occurred.
By taking this case, HSLDA hopes to show that the burdensome Pennsylvania law is putting unnecessary stress on thousands of homeschooling families who are providing an excellent education for their children.
* Names have been changed to protect families' privacy