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Vol. XXIII
No. 4
Cover
July/August
2007

In This Issue

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NATIONAL

Veterans Affairs Throws out Discriminatory Policy

Case: In the Appeal of George R. Theiss
Filed: Fall 1999

On March 16, 2007, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) promulgated new regulations that now treat homeschools just like any other school, ending years of discrimination by the VA, which questioned whether or not homeschooling was an “educational institution.”

“These new regulations come as a direct result of the 2004 decision in favor of Home School Legal Defense Association member and Vietnam veteran George Theiss, whom HSLDA represented in his claim for veterans benefits for over five years,” notes HSLDA Deputy General Counsel James R. Mason III. (Read the case history in the May/June 2006 Court Report cover story.)

The new regulations can be attributed in large measure to the joint efforts of HSLDA’s litigation team in taking Mr. Theiss’s case, and HSLDA’s Federal Relations Department in providing the Department of Veterans Affairs with language and input that would correct this issue.

A similar victory for equal treatment of homeschoolers was recently achieved in the new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act regulations, based in large measure on the effective joint efforts of the same HSLDA departments in the case of the D Family in New York. (See the May/June 2006 Court Report for the full story.)

The March 16 VA regulations specifically include homeschools under the description of “educational institution,” stating that “the term also includes home schools that operate in compliance with the compulsory attendance laws of the States in which they are located, whether treated as private schools or home schools under State law.” Now, the discrimination that dragged Mr. Theiss through five years of litigation to receive the benefits he earned has been effectively terminated.

by Nicholas Bolzman

ILLINOIS

Trial Avoided

Case: In Re: H Children
Filed: 10-18-06

One year after withdrawing some of their children from a local Christian school, Mr. and Mrs. Hoover (name changed to protect family’s privacy) decided to withdraw the rest of their children and homeschool all of them using a nationally recognized curriculum. Shortly thereafter, a local truancy officer investigating a report of the children’s absences contacted the Hoovers. The officer also contacted the local school, where the principal expressed concern that the children were not receiving an adequate education at home. Based on this investigation, the truancy officer filed a petition for neglect in the county court.

Once notified of the situation, HSLDA quickly began to work on the case with a local counsel. Early on, the charges against several of the children were dismissed because the children were either too young or too old to be subject to Illinois’ compulsory attendance law. However, despite HSLDA’s objections, the court, intending to seek the best interest of the children, appointed a guardian ad litem (“guardian for the suit”) for the remaining children.

HSLDA and the local counsel continued to submit evidence that the children were in fact receiving a good education and that the charges of educational neglect were false. HSLDA Deputy General Counsel Jim Mason even brought in an educational expert to testify on the quality of education provided by Mr. and Mrs. Hoover. While the prosecutor was satisfied with the evidence submitted, the guardian ad litem pushed for further evaluation of the children. HSLDA opposed this additional evaluation, insisting that the opinion of our expert was enough to validate the children's home education program.

By the end of March 2007, a trial date was set, and it looked as if the Hoover family would have to appear in court. However, the day before the trial, HSLDA made one last effort to settle the issue with the prosecutor. When he saw all of our evidence, he agreed to dismiss the case, and, by God’s grace, an outcome favorable to the family was reached.

by Nicholas Bolzman

TEXAS

Quick Work at HSLDA

Case: In Re: E Children
Filed: 4-14-07

Feeling that she could do a better job teaching her son than the local public high school, Ms. Elwood (name changed to protect family’s privacy) withdrew him and began to instruct him at home in February 2007. Although she had notified the high school of his withdrawal, the school district incorrectly determined that the boy was truant and contacted the local police department.

Two months later, a police officer showed up at 5:00 in the evening and served both Ms. Elwood and her son with a summons to appear in court the next morning at 9:00 to face truancy charges. Ms. Elwood immediately called the HSLDA emergency line.

HSLDA Deputy General Counsel Jim Mason received the call at home. He carefully instructed Ms. Elwood in her strategy for the court hearing. In addition, HSLDA’s local counsel Tom Sanders was able to contact Ms. Elwood the next morning and remain on call to represent her if the charges were not dropped.

At the courthouse the next day, the judge dismissed the charges, freeing Ms. Elwood to continue homeschooling.

by Nicholas Bolzman

Pending Cases

AL B Family v. Social Security Administration

AZ L Family v. Administration for Children, Youth and Families

CA E.T. v. California Dept. of Social Services

CA Miss H. v. Los Angeles Unified School District

IA Winkelman v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

IL H Family v. Social Security Administration

IL In Re: F.H.

KS T Family v. Social Security Administration

MA Amherst Public Schools v. S Family

MS C Family v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

NY D Family v. Livonia Central School District

PA C Family v. Social Security Administration

RI North Providence School District v. G Family

Pennsylvania RFPA cases

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