Home School Court Report
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November / December 2005

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Spurious abuse claim refuted

About 8:30 on a Saturday evening this summer, the Wall family returned home to see two cars parked in their driveway, one of which was a sheriff's car.* As the family exited their car, a social worker asked, "Are you James Wall?" The father acknowledged that he was, and the social worker said, "We have received a call about possible child abuse in your family."

Immediately, the shocked parents gathered their family together and prayed. Then they had their 15-year-old son take their 5-year-old daughter into their home. When the parents asked the social worker what they were accused of, she refused to tell them. Mr. and Mrs. Wall decided it was time to call Home School Legal Defense Association.

Moments later, HSLDA Attorney Scott Woodruff was on the phone. The social worker told Woodruff that a hotline caller had claimed the family's son had bruises on his neck and arms and was being locked in his room.

Woodruff then spoke privately to the family and found there was absolutely no truth to the allegations. He advised the family not to permit the social worker to come into their home or question their daughter. Rather, he counseled them to allow the social worker to see their daughter, ask the parents questions, and ask the son questions in the parents' presence-but only questions relating to the two allegations.

The family accepted this advice, and the social worker was soon convinced the allegations were groundless. Woodruff stayed on the phone until the social worker and sheriff had left the premises.

The heavy toll exacted from families by investigations of spurious complaints has never been adequately studied. The next day, the 5-year-old was found walking around the house covering one hand with the other. Upon being questioned about this odd behavior, she told her mother she was trying to hide a little cut she had gotten from a pencil sharpener. She said she was afraid someone would see it and think her mommy had abused her.

A day or two later, the social worker told the family that the hotline report also described the family as vegetarians and as being so private that they homeschooled and had a privacy fence. It is small consolation that the social worker had the good judgment to realize none of these complaints were evidence of abuse or neglect.

— by Scott A. Woodruff

* Name changed to protect family's privacy. See "HSLDA social services contact policy."