Home School Court Report
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March / April 2005

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Finally free

Case: In Re Joshua B
Filed: 12/06/1999
After over five years of litigation, a Home School Legal Defense Association member family has finally been freed from supervision by the juvenile court system.

In 1999, the St. Louis County Protective Services brought a petition alleging the educational neglect of 8-year-old Joshua B, whose special learning needs included autism. Mr. and Mrs. B had taught Joshua at home for several years, but because they could not document 1,000 hours of instruction for the 1998–99 school year, the trial court ruled that Joshua was educationally neglected.

In November 2001, the Supreme Court of Missouri denied HSLDA's final appeal, making Joshua subject to juvenile court jurisdiction. (See the January/February 2002 issue of the Court Report.)

HSLDA continued to represent the B family at Joshua's subsequent juvenile court hearings, eager to resolve the issue of whether parents have the right to homeschool a special needs child. In August 2002, the juvenile court ruled that Joshua could be homeschooled for the coming school year, but would be subject to later review. At the October 2003 review hearing, however, the judge demanded that the family enroll Joshua in public school. For the next year, Mr. and Mrs. B were forced to send their son to school each day, while Mrs. B supplemented his education by teaching him at home in the afternoon and evening.

After months of working with the social workers and HSLDA, the family received permission at the October 2004 review hearing to homeschool Joshua on a trial basis. Trish Breed of Missouri Families for Home Education and Betty Statnick, HSLDA's special needs coordinator, spent hours helping Mrs. B set up a homeschool program that would suit Joshua's needs. Four months later, on January 7, 2005, HSLDA asked the judge to finally terminate jurisdiction over Joshua. In agreeing to terminate jurisdiction, the judge, the social worker, and the guardian ad litem all commended Mr. and Mrs. B for their intensive work and love for their son.

"It was a long haul, but we are all so glad that the stress of constant oversight by the juvenile court is over," said HSLDA Staff Attorney Darren Jones. "After more than five years, the B family is finally free."


One good decision leads to another

Case: Mr. G v. Department of Veterans Affairs
Filed: 08/02/2004
On August 2, 2004, the Houston Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) discontinued benefits for the daughter of HSLDA member Mr. G because she was not attending an "approved school." As a disabled veteran, Mr. G is entitled to receive benefits for his dependents, including unmarried children between 18 and 23 who are attending an approved school.

"A homeschool program does not constitute an institution within the meaning of an educational institution," the Houston VA stated in its decision. In a letter to Mr. G, the department explained that a homeschool could not be an approved school because it is created to serve the needs of a particular student instead of a group of students.

The family immediately contacted HSLDA. We responded with a letter citing a July 27, 2004, decision by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in favor of HSLDA member George R. Theiss. The decision had overridden a rejection of benefits on precisely the same grounds as the discontinuance of Mr. G's benefits. HSLDA also pointed out that homeschools in Texas legally operate as private schools and that Mr. G's homeschool was in full compliance with the law. We requested that the department reconsider its denial.

The department responded with an apology to Mr. G for its error and reinstated his benefits in full.