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Vol. XXII
No. 4
Cover
July/August
2006

In This Issue

SPECIALFEATURES
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ARIZONA

Social Workers Violate Family’s 4th and 14th Amendment Rights

Case: L Family v. Administration for Children, Youth, and Families
Filed: 3-3-06

In January 2005, Home School Legal Defense Association members Mr. and Mrs. Laraby* received notice that a child protective services (CPS) worker wanted to talk with them regarding anonymous allegations that had been made against them. Based on HSLDA’s advice, the family declined the interview because the social worker had not revealed the nature of the allegations.

A few days later, CPS informed the Larabys that the allegations involved the habitability of their home. The family had been building the house themselves and had only recently moved in after obtaining an occupancy permit from the county. They offered to provide CPS with the occupancy permit to show that the allegations were false, but the social workers insisted on searching the home. The Larabys did not consent to the search, and several weeks passed with no further contact.

On March 9, 2005, two social workers appeared at the Larabys’ door, accompanied by two armed, uniformed police officers. Claiming to have a court order to remove the children, the lead social worker demanded to see the interior of the family’s home. There was no court order, however, and the family called HSLDA. Over the phone, HSLDA Attorney Thomas Schmidt spoke with the social workers.

The social workers informed Schmidt that if they were not allowed into the home, Mr. and Mrs. Laraby would be handcuffed in front of their children, who would then be taken into CPS custody. Even after the Larabys presented their children to the social workers to show they were well cared for and in good health, the social workers continued to insist on entry into the home.

HSLDA then spoke with the social workers’ attorney, attempting to get her to persuade the social workers to abide by the family’s 4th Amendment right to decline to consent to a warrantless search of their home. But the CPS attorney told HSLDA that Arizona law gives CPS agents greater latitude than the 4th Amendment allows to search a person’s dwelling in the case of suspected child neglect. She added that unless the family permitted a search of the home, CPS agents could legally remove the children.

By this time, two more police officers had arrived on the scene. Faced with immediate arrest and the removal of their children, Mr. and Mrs. Laraby were forced to stand aside without protest while the social workers and police entered and searched their home. The search concluded in less than five minutes, and the Larabys were informed a month later that the investigation had been ruled unsubstantiated. The allegations in the anonymous tip were false.

On March 3, 2006, HSLDA filed suit on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Laraby, seeking a declaratory judgment against the social workers, the police, and the social workers’ lawyer. HSLDA is also seeking damages for the family’s distress. In addition to the unlawful search, we have asserted that the baseless threat to remove the Larabys’ children was itself a violation of the 14th Amendment. “As parents, we can imagine no threat as damaging to the integrity of the family as the threat to place our children in foster care,’ said James R. Mason, HSLDA Litigation Counsel. “While this threat may be an effective tactic to coerce parents to step aside, it is immoral and unconstitutional.”

In addition to filing lawsuits on behalf of families whose 4th Amendment rights have been violated, HSLDA is working to prevent such situations from ever occurring by passing legislation in each state that complies with the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). This state CAPTA legislation would require all social workers to be trained in 4th Amendment procedure.

MISSOURI

Fighting Discrimination against Homeschooled Special Needs Child

Case: R Family v. Missouri Department of Social Services
Filed: 3-6-06

Should a homeschooled student be treated differently than a public school student? Home School Legal Defense Association doesn’t think so. Just recently, we fought for and won equal treatment for 18-year-old homeschooled student Mary Richmond.*

Mary was adopted at a very young age. Because she had some special needs, the state granted her adoptive family an adoption subsidy to help with her care and education.

Mary’s new parents enrolled her in public school from kindergarten through 3rd grade, at which time Mr. and Mrs. Richmond decided that Mary’s special needs would be better met through homeschooling. They withdrew their daughter from public school and continued her education at home. Despite her learning disabilities, Mary flourished in the homeschool program, and kept pace with her public school peers each year.

During Mary’s junior year of high school, the state social services office contacted the Richmonds, informing them that Mary&rsquuo;s adoption subsidy would cease six months after her 18th birthday because she was being homeschooled. After researching the subject, the Richmonds discovered that if Mary attended public school, she would receive benefits until she graduated from high school.

Distressed by this blatant discrimination, Mr. and Mrs. Richmond contacted HSLDA. HSLDA immediately urged the department of social services (DSS) to stop discriminating against the Richmonds. When the request failed to persuade DSS, we filed a notice of appeal on the family's behalf and prepared to fight the discriminatory policy in court.

One week before the appeal hearing was scheduled, the Richmonds received a letter from DSS informing them that the department would waive its policy, allowing Mary’s adoption subsidy to continue until she graduated in June 2007.

* Name changed to protect family's privacy.

Pending Cases

AL In Re: F.M.

FL C Family v. Department of Veterans Affairs

GA In the Matter of S., C. and T.P.

IA Winkelman v. Department of Veterans Affairs

NY D Family v. Livonia Central School District

PA C Family v. Social Security Administration

PENNSYLVANIA RFPA CASES

Combs v. Homer-Center School District
Conestoga County School District v. N Family
Hankin v. Bristol Township School District
Nelson v. Titusville Area School District
Newborn v. Franklin Regional School District
Norwin School District v. B Family
Prevish v. Norwin School District
Penn-Trafford School District v. B Family
Weber v. Dubois Area School District