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No. 5

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Judge Threatens Family with $3,500 Fine

Renata and Andre Broughton, homeschooling parents from Eastpointe, appeared in court with trepidation. Facing criminal truancy charges, they were asking for a “continuance” in order to postpone the date of their trial.

Although aware that they were homeschooling, the unsympathetic judge responded that this case needed to be heard soon because the Broughtons were facing a “$3,500 fine” for their child not being in school.

The situation began when Andre and Renata Broughton moved temporarily in December 2005 and enrolled their child in the Detroit public schools. Due to many problems they encountered there, including fear for their child’s safety, they decided to homeschool in the new year and notified the school district accordingly. Around this time, Renata Broughton realized that the Detroit City Public Schools had never asked the Eastpointe school district to transfer her child’s school records to them.

Although the situation was clearly the school district’s fault, criminal truancy charges were filed against the Broughtons when they moved back to Eastpointe for the entire time their child was in the Detroit school district and throughout their couple of months homeschooling.

Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka contacted the court and explained the error, but the judge insisted that Klicka didn’t know Michigan law—even though Klicka had provided the judge with extensive information on homeschooling and homeschooling laws in Michigan, based on his long-term involvement in the battle for the right to homeschool in that state and the legal work HSLDA did for The People v. DeJonge, a case that went before the Supreme Court of Michigan.

HSLDA hired local attorney Dave Kallman, a homeschooling dad and longtime friend of HSLDA who has served as our in-state “of counsel” on numerous cases, to represent the family at a pre-trial court conference. In a room full of prosecutors, police officers, and defense lawyers, all of whom were waiting to discuss their pending cases, Kallman began to explain to the prosecutor that the Broughtons were legally homeschooling their children.

The prosecutor, at that point, wondered where the truant officer was who was supposed to be there for this hearing, but the judge simply ordered the hearing to go forward. As Kallman presented a booklet on homeschooling in Michigan that he had authored, a defense lawyer connected with another case looked over his shoulder and said, “My niece homeschools. Could I get a copy of that book?” So Kallman took down his name and address.

A few minutes later, the prosecutor took a break to call the truant officer. The head police officer in the room came over to Kallman and said, “Hey, I homeschool my children—can I get a copy of that book?” Again, Kallman took down a name and address.

When the prosecutor returned, Kallman began to display some of the Broughtons’ school books as evidence that they were legitimate homeschoolers. Various prosecutors and defense lawyers began drifting over to the table, looking through the books, and commenting, “This is excellent material! These are great books!”

Kallman continued to explain the homeschool law to the prosecutor, who hadn’t even understood it prior to the conference. In fact, he had told Kallman that he thought homeschooling was illegal.

Eventually, the prosecutor reached the truant officer by phone and said that he was thinking of dismissing the case. He paused for a long time as the truant officer voiced his opinion on the other end of the line.

Finally the prosecutor said, “I have the law right here, and unless you have some other proof, I am going to dismiss this case.”

After the case was dismissed, HSLDA received a letter of thanks from Andre Broughton.

“My wife and I have been through probably one of the most trying times in our life,” he wrote. “God, being as merciful as He has been, guided me to the Home School Legal Defense Association, and we owe them a great deal of thanks. If not for them, my wife and I may have faced fines, these false criminal charges, and a criminal record. . . . HSLDA has our support for life. Thank you a million times. May God bless each and every one of you at HSLDA with a blessing that you don't have room enough to receive.”

HSLDA, in turn, would like to thank each one of our members for their support. Through your prayers and membership, you are helping ensure that the rights of all homeschoolers are protected.

— by Christopher J. Klicka