The Home School Court Report
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January / February 2004

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Springdale family investigated by social services

This past August, the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS)* began investigating a homeschooling family in Springdale on the basis of an anonymous tip that the family was not homeschooling. The family had been homeschooling for six years and had filed the required notice of intent to homeschool with the local public school superintendent by August 15, providing, among other things, a description of their curriculum and a schedule of instruction.

When the social worker came to the home, he entered the house, inspected the premises, and interviewed the parents and their 10-year-old son. The social worker later verified with the local superintendent that the family had filed the notice of intent to homeschool on a timely basis. Despite this, the social worker insisted that he be permitted to re-enter the home to further inspect the premises and to interview the parents' 15-year-old daughter, as well as their 18-year-old son, an entering freshman at the University of Arkansas. This son had been homeschooled the past six years, and the quality of his education was evident in the fact that he had graduated from high school and had been accepted into college.

Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Dewitt Black had a number of telephone conversations with the social worker and the attorney for DCFS in an effort to bring this unwarranted investigation to an end. He pointed out that even if this anonymous tip were true, it would not constitute educational neglect, because the homeschool law of Arkansas does not prescribe a starting date for instruction or require a certain number of days of instruction for the school year. It was perfectly legal for the family not to have begun instruction in the middle of August. Furthermore, by contacting the local school district, the social worker had verified that the family was in full compliance with the law.

As the investigation continued into September, HSLDA prepared a brief for the DCFS attorney, pointing out that the procedure being followed by the social worker contradicted provisions of the United States and Arkansas constitutions. Further, we asserted that the social worker's plans to continue the investigation were contrary to Arkansas Supreme Court decisions applying constitutional principles to investigations of citizens. Apparently, the legal brief had its desired effect, because the family has heard nothing more from the social worker concerning this investigation.

Dewitt T. Black