The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXIII
No. 5
Cover
September/October
2007

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CALIFORNIA

Judge Reaffirms Legitimacy of Homeschooling

Case: E.T. v. California Department of Social Services
Filed: 12/1/06

As reported in the May/June 2007 Court Report, although she was being legally homeschooled, Patricia Tabbott’s (name changed to protect family’s privacy) welfare benefits were terminated because the school district no longer considered her a student. The local department of social services has a policy that excludes parent-initiated private schools from the definition of “school” in the phrase, “attendance at school,” thus the Tabbotts’ homeschool program was not recognized.

This application of California law stems from the interpretation of former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, who in 2003 sought to regulate homeschooling by writing a letter to school districts and state legislators. She claimed that parents could legally teach their own children in California only if they were certified teachers. Fortunately, her letter was ignored by the state legislature, and her interpretation of state law has not been adopted by the current administration.

Home School Legal Defense Association appealed the department’s decision on Mrs. Tabbott’s behalf, and HSLDA Deputy General Counsel James Mason III appeared at an administrative hearing in March 2007. He demonstrated that the family had indeed met all of the requirements for operating a legally recognized private school in California. The administrative law judge ruled in our favor, and the director of the California Department of Social Services has since confirmed this ruling.

The written opinion of the administrative judge was especially favorable. In it, he limited the discretionary authority of the counties, stating that “Counties have been delegated authority to determine what constitutes ‘regular’ school attendance. . . . Counties, however, have not been delegated authority to determine what constitutes a ‘school.’ ” He furthermore affirmed HSLDA’s position that parents can teach their children under the private school option. This is an amazing victory that re-affirms the legitimacy of homeschooling in California.

by Jim Mason

NEW YORK

Family’s Record Cleared

Case: Unified School District v. B
Filed: 5/24/06

The CPS investigation was withdrawn after caseworkers found no evidence of child abuse or neglect in the Baker family (name changed to protect family’s privacy). But life did not return to normal for the Bakers, who have been homeschooling in New York for several years. The Bakers’ names were still entered in the Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment as a family against whom charges of educational neglect were “founded.” The charges were “founded” not because the Bakers had neglected their children’s education, but because they had not immediately cooperated with their school district in submitting documents requested by the school district.

HSLDA intervened, and appealed this determination. At the hearing, the state presented no evidence for their determination that a charge of educational neglect was founded nor did they provide any justification for listing the family’s name in the Central Registry. The judge therefore ordered that the report be changed to “unfounded” and the record expunged.

by Jim Mason

VERMONT

Same Old, Same Old

Case: Department of Education v. L Family
Filed: 4/11/07

After homeschooling their adopted son Brandon last year, Mr. and Mrs. Long (names changed to protect family’s privacy) decided to try a public school for children with special needs. The school year started well for Brandon, but then he began to fall behind and was unable to catch up. As a result, Mr. and Mrs. Long decided to homeschool Brandon again, and submitted the required paperwork to the Vermont Department of Education (DOE). Dissatisfied with the family’s homeschool and Brandon’s lack of progress, the DOE called a due process hearing.

In 2006, the Long family dealt with this same situation—they were faced with a hearing after withdrawing Brandon from the public school and homeschooling him. Through the intervention of HSLDA, the Longs’ homeschool program was accepted by the DOE, and the case was withdrawn. Apparently, the fact that the Longs’ program had been approved last year did not prevent a hearing from being scheduled this year.

HSLDA Deputy General Counsel Jim Mason sent a letter to the DOE attorney, explaining that the reason Brandon was not performing at the 3rd-grade level was because, at the suggestion of the public school and the social workers who had assisted with his adoption, he had started school a year late. Furthermore, HSLDA arranged an independent evaluation of Brandon, which determined that he was in fact making progress at home.

As a result of HSLDA’s letter, the evaluation, and additional correspondence from Jim Mason, the DOE again accepted the Longs’ homeschool program and dropped the charges. Hopefully this situation won’t be repeated next year.

by Darren Jones

Pending Cases

AL B Family v. Social Security Administration

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

CA Miss H. v. Los Angeles Unified School District

IA Winkelman v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

IL H Family v. Logan County

IL H Family v. Social Security Administration

KS T Family v. Social Security Administration

MA State of Massachusetts v. R.P.

MS C Family v. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

VA D Family v. Zoning Administration

WA M Family v. Dept. of Social and Health Services

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