HSLDA Flies to the Rescue
Case: City of Oxnard v. K.N.
Filed: December 2007
by Darren Jones
HSLDA Litigation Attorney Darren Jones recently defended a California member family against unjust charges of truancy, flying across the country to appear in court in their defense.
After their daughter Amelia (name changed to protect family’s privacy) suffered severe stress at the local public school, Mr. and Mrs. Neville (name changed to protect family’s privacy) decided to withdraw her from school in 2007 and homeschool her in conjunction with a private Independent Study Program (ISP). The school immediately summoned them to a School Attendance Review Board hearing, but when the ISP confirmed that Amelia was enrolled, the school dismissed the hearing without telling the family.
Over the summer, Mr. and Mrs. Neville decided to file their own private school affidavit with the California Department of Education rather than continue with the ISP. Also during the summer, the school district called the ISP and found out that Amelia would not be enrolled there for the following year.
That December, the school district filed truancy charges against Mrs. Neville. The truant officer who later delivered the summons refused to listen to Mrs. Neville’s explanation that Amelia was being privately educated.
Contacted less than a week before the hearing, HSLDA Litigation Attorney Darren Jones spoke to the school attendance director and the local assistant district attorney about dismissing the case. Both were adamant that they would not drop the prosecution, even when provided with proof that Mrs. Neville was in full compliance with the law.
Faced with this stubbornness, Jones flew out to represent the Nevilles at their truancy hearing. But the case was dismissed before trial on the day of the hearing.
“The support from HSLDA made a potentially volatile situation tolerable,” Mrs. Neville later wrote. “It’s very difficult to walk into a situation like court today, but we felt a whole lot better knowing you were there.”
Homeschool Mom Exonerated of Charges
Case: State v. C.T.
Filed: November 2007
Compiled by the Litigation Department
On December 7, 2007, Utah Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Lindsley dismissed the criminal charges brought against a Salt Lake County homeschooling mom for failing to enroll her daughter in the local public school.
Though for the previous two years the mother had properly notified the school district that she was homeschooling her daughter, for the 2006-2007 school year she inadvertently delayed notification until February 2007. Although the district granted the child an exemption certificate, as required by law, it also decided that failure to file the affidavit before the first day of the public school year was an automatic criminal violation of the state’s compulsory school attendance law, even though Utah’s home education statute does not specify a filing deadline and requires only that an affidavit be sent to the district “annually.”
The district referred the matter to the district attorney, claiming the mother had violated the compulsory attendance laws from September 2006 through February 9, 2007, when she filed her notice. Specifically, the district accused the mother of failing to enroll her child in a public school, failing to cooperate with district officials, and failing to attend appointments and meetings. Furthermore, the district demanded that the child be tested by school officials. Although the mother had indeed refused to have her daughter tested (testing is not required by Utah homeschool law), she had not heard from the district regarding any matter other than testing.
The district attorney filed criminal charges and demanded that the child be tested, presenting the mother with the possibility of fines and six months in jail. However, after consultation with Home School Legal Defense Association attorneys Mike Donnelly and Jim Mason, Utah Christian Home School Association president and attorney Frank D. Mylar successfully filed a motion to dismiss that ended this case.
“This is a great victory for all homeschoolers in Utah,” said Mylar, “and will hopefully send a message to district officials that they cannot intimidate homeschooling families who may inadvertently file their notice affidavit after the public school year begins.”
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