|| LITIGATION SUMMARIES
HSLDA defeats charges of educational neglect
In June, Home School Legal Defense Association successfully defended a New York state member family who had been charged with educational neglect.
Case: Department of Social Services v. Smith|
The Smith* family moved to New York at the beginning of the 200203 school year. The Smiths, who have adopted several special-needs children, homeschool some of them while sending others to public school. Coming from Michigan, where they were not required to notify or report to the school district, they neglected to file their notice of intent to homeschool and other paperwork in time to meet the deadline outlined in New York's regulations.
During the summer of 2003, a report of alleged neglect unrelated to education was made regarding one of the children. When the county department of social services (DSS) investigated this allegation, they discovered that the Smiths had not filed their homeschooling paperwork for the previous school year. The social workers filed a neglect petition that focused primarily on the non-education issue, but which also alleged educational neglect for failure to file the homeschooling paperwork.
HSLDA Litigation Attorney James R. Mason, III, represented the Smiths in a three-day trial regarding the education issues and assisted a local attorney regarding the neglect issue. After the county had presented all of its evidence, Mason moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that even if the state could provide evidence of educational neglect (which the Smiths planned to refute during the presentation of their case), the court's intervention was unnecessary, since all of the alleged problems had long been corrected.
For example, one of the DSS witnesses was the school official who monitors homeschool paperwork in the Smiths' county. She testified that the family had turned in all of the required paperwork after the petition was filed, and that it was satisfactory in all respects. She also testified that the school district itself did not consider late filing of paperwork to be educational neglect, but that from the school district's perspective, the Smith's records were now complete and all of the Smith children were in full compliance with compulsory attendance laws as of the day of her testimony. Likewise, the neglect issue had been similarly resolved since the filing of the petition.
Unlike criminal courts, the juvenile court does not exist to punish those alleged to have neglected their children, but to correct whatever problems may exist. Following an entire morning of researching the issue and discussing it in chambers with the county's attorney, the children's guardians ad litem, Mason, and the Smiths' other attorney, the judge ruled that he did not need to hear from the defense because his intervention was no longer required. He dismissed the entire petition.
* Name changed to protect family's privacy.
SSA agrees that homeschooling is "full-time school"
In 2002, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reduced disability benefits to a Home School Legal Defense Association member family with a disabled child because the SSA did not consider homeschooled children to be full-time students.
Case: P Family v. Social Security Administration|
HSLDA appealed that decision, and an administrative law judge ruled in favor of the P family. In August 2003, however, the Appeals Council for the SSA reviewed the case and determined that homeschooling did not qualify as "full-time school," and once again reduced the family's benefits.
HSLDA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family in federal court. On April 23, 2004, the SSA backed down and agreed to settle the case by recognizing homeschooling as full-time school.