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Vol. XXVII
No. 5
Cover
September/October
2011

In This Issue

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CALIFORNIA

Educational Neglect Charges Dismissed

Case: In re: E Family
Filed: 3/15/11

by Joshua Kamakawiwoole

The Emmetts (names changed to protect privacy) had their son Jonathan enrolled in the local public school for several years. After some time, school administrators informed Mrs. Emmett that Jonathan was unable to keep up with his workload, and encouraged her to enroll him in special education classes. But Mrs. Emmett was convinced that Jonathan was only shy and unaccustomed to the school.

The school administrators scheduled a meeting with Mrs. Emmett to address their concerns about Jonathan’s progress. But on the day of the meeting, Mrs. Emmett’s car would not start and she was unable to attend.

A few days later, a social worker showed up at the family’s door and insisted that the Emmetts enroll Jonathan in special education classes and allow the social worker to interview Jonathan. Mrs. Emmett refused to allow the interview and did not release his medical records. The social worker left, but continued to visit every few days. After the social worker’s first visit, Mrs. Emmett decided to homeschool Jonathan, just as she had done with her two older sons about 10 years before.

On February 10, 2011, the social worker paid another visit to the family and delivered a letter informing them that they faced educational neglect charges and would need to be present for a court hearing on March 9, 2011. The family called HSLDA for help.

After consulting with HSLDA, Mrs. Emmett went to her son’s public school and requested the necessary forms to withdraw her child. Though she was given the forms, the administrators would not accept the completed forms because they wanted to know where Jonathan would attend school next. She explained that she would be homeschooling him.

Under California law there is no such thing as “educational neglect.” So the petition filed with the court actually alleged that Mrs. Emmet’s unwillingness to accept public school special education services could cause her son physical harm and was emotional abuse.

At the hearing, HSLDA represented Mrs. Emmett. The social worker attempted to explain to the judge how not attending special education classes could lead to physical harm. Unconvinced, the judge dismissed the charges against Mrs. Emmett without even requiring HSLDA to offer a defense.

MICHIGAN

Family Continues Receiving Benefits

Case: O Family v. Social Security Administration
Filed: 3/29/11

by Joshua Kamakawiwoole

Mrs. Orten (names changed to protect privacy) provides for her family through Social Security disability benefits from her ex-husband. In November 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent a letter to the family, indicating that the benefits for Mrs. Orten’s daughter Jenny would be terminated because she was 18 years old and had not demonstrated that she was a full-time student. Mrs. Orten visited her local SSA office, explained that her daughter was homeschooled, and proceeded to provide the information typically required. However, the SSA office refused to accept the information unless she also provided a teacher’s certificate.

Mrs. Orten heard about HSLDA in December 2011 and joined soon after. HSLDA contacted the local SSA office, explaining that the family was in compliance with all state requirements and that a teacher’s certificate was not necessary to extend Jenny’s benefits according to the policies established by the SSA.

Thinking that the problem was resolved, the Ortens settled back into their homeschool routine. However, a month later, Mrs. Orten received a phone call from the local SSA office that brought the issue back to the surface. The SSA was now requiring a letter from the Michigan Department of Education stating that homeschooling was “deemed necessary” for Jenny Orten. Mrs. Orten passed the contact information for the local Social Security officer to HSLDA Attorney Darren Jones, who immediately appealed the decision. Within a month’s time, the SSA sent the family a letter fully reinstating Jenny’s benefits.

MISSOURI

HSLDA Helps Fledgling Homeschool Get off the Ground

Case: In re: S Family
Filed: 3/22/11

by Joshua Kamakawiwoole

The Sosa family (names changed to protect privacy) was struggling. Single parent Mr. Sosa is physically disabled and his daughter Annie has a learning disability, which was not being adequately addressed by the local public school. Hoping to better care for Annie and give her a better education, he withdrew her from school to teach her at home.

Some time later, the Missouri Department of Family Services (DFS) paid the family a visit to investigate a report that the Sosas’ house was not clean. In addition, DFS workers wanted Annie to take tests at the local public school to make sure she was learning at home. Instead, Annie was privately evaluated. Although the evaluation demonstrated that Annie had been making progress while she was at home, DFS told Mr. Sosa not long after the investigation that he could no longer homeschool his daughter.

Mr. Sosa talked to a homeschool group in Missouri, who referred him to HSLDA. From there, several steps were taken to support the Sosas’ homeschool program. After talking to HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff, Mr. Sosa sent a notice of intent to homeschool to the school district and created a filing system to organize his daughter’s homework and academic records. HSLDA also contacted a local attorney to represent Mr. Sosa in the meetings with social workers that were scheduled for the next few weeks to discuss the sanitation of the home. While the house had been disorganized, it was not unsanitary, and the charges against the family were dismissed as unfounded. A local homeschool leader, Deana Haines, helped Mr. Sosa secure curriculum for Annie and agreed to mentor him as he homeschools Annie. The Sosas are now homeschooling without intrusion and are preparing Annie for high school.


About the author

Joshua Kamakawiwoole is HSLDA’s litigation assistant.


Pending Cases

AL B Family v. Social Security Administration

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

CA In re: RH

CA L Family v. Social Security Administration

CA M Family v. County of San Bernardino

IN S Family v. Social Security Administration

MA Attleboro Public Schools v. S Family

NJ Department of Youth and Family Services v. F Family

NM In re: BW

NY In re: MS

PA Newborn v. Franklin Regional School District

TX K Family v. Social Security Administration

WA F Family v. Department of Veterans Affairs