The Home School Court Report
No. 2

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Sloppy recordkeeping leads to CPS investigation

Just before Christmas 2005, a caseworker from Erie County Child Protective Services (CPS) came to the Butler* family's door, announcing that the family was under investigation for educational neglect and demanding entry into the home. Unsure what to do, the Butlers let the social worker into their home and permitted her to interview their 8-year-old child in another room.

The caseworker then claimed that the family had not reported their homeschool to the state. To refute this false charge, Mrs. Butler pulled out their notice of intent and Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP). The caseworker was unconvinced, continuing to insist as she left the house that the family was required to "register" with the state and that they had failed to do so.

Shaken, Mr. and Mrs. Butler asked Home School Legal Defense Association for help. Staff Attorney Thomas J. Schmidt contacted the CPS caseworker, informed her that the Butler family was in compliance with the law, and explained what state law actually requires. (For a summary of New York law, please visit

It then became apparent that the report of educational neglect had been made by the local public school district. Mrs. Butler had submitted the notice of intent by July 1, 2005, and the IHIP by August 15. However, in October the school district informed the Butlers that it had not received either form. The Butlers resubmitted their paperwork and heard nothing more from the school district until the visit from CPS. It appears the school district lost Mrs. Butler's original documents as well as the copies she sent. Although the district's own carelessness was responsible for the missing forms, the district reported the Butlers for educational neglect. HSLDA believes the district's behavior is inexcusable and will aggressively defend any member family in a similar situation.

Because of HSLDA's quick intervention, the school district withdrew their allegation of educational neglect. We will continue to monitor this district to make sure it understands and complies with the law. If you are an HSLDA member, please call our offices if a CPS worker knocks at your door. Through early intervention, HSLDA can often deter social workers from unnecessary home visits and privacy-invading interviews.

— by Thomas J. Schmidt

* Name changed to protect family's privacy.

See "HSLDA social services contact policy"