The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXVII
No. 6
Cover
November/December
2011

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ARKANSAS

HSLDA Beats Ed Neglect Charges

Case: In re: J Family
Filed: 6/13/11

by Joshua Kamakawiwoole

Mrs. Jillings (name changed to protect privacy) homeschools her two sons. In the spring of 2011, two social services investigators arrived at her house and accused her of not submitting the proper forms to the local school district. According to the investigators, the notice of intent Mrs. Jillings had filed needed to be notarized and it was not. After she informed the investigators that a notarized notice of intent was not required by state law, they asked to enter the house to ensure that the living conditions were suitable for the children. The investigators had apparently been sent to the house to see if the children were being educated. As far as Mrs. Jillings was concerned, that had nothing to do with the state of the house, and she refused to let them in. They left, threatening court action. The family learned about Home School Legal Defense Association through our website and promptly applied for membership.

HSLDA worked with Mrs. Jillings to prepare information on her education program to show the investigators, including compiling a list of the curriculum and teaching methods she used. As this information was being prepared, Mrs. Jillings received a court summons for educational neglect. HSLDA immediately found a local counsel, Tom Garner, to assist the family and sent staff attorney Darren Jones to represent them in court.

HSLDA also hired educational evaluator Dr. Steven Duvall to test the children and see how they compared to their public school counterparts. In preparation for the court date, Dr. Duvall evaluated the children’s progress and determined that Mrs. Jillings not only taught the children well, but due to the small teacher-to-student ratio of their homeschool, the children were learning faster and were better behaved than the average child in public schools.

At the court hearing on July 20, 2011, attorneys Jones and Garner convinced the social workers’ attorney to dismiss the unwarranted charge against the family, leaving the Jillingses free to continue homeschooling.

VIRGIN ISLANDS

HSLDA Wins First SSA Case in the Virgin Islands

Case: P Family v. Social Security Administration
Filed: 3/23/11

by Joshua Kamakawiwoole

Mrs. Pinkerton (name changed to protect privacy) had been homeschooling her son Frank for years in the Virgin Islands, annually submitting his paperwork on time and working with a private school in California to acquire textbooks and supplement the instruction he was receiving at home. After her husband’s death, she received survivor’s Social Security income, which allowed her to stay at home and educate her son. Everything seemed normal as Frank prepared to graduate.

On February 10, 2011, the family ran into a problem: they received a letter from the local Virgin Islands Social Security Administration (SSA) office indicating that on March 1, Frank would no longer be eligible for benefits unless they could prove he was a full-time student in compliance with the Virgin Islands education code. Mrs. Pinkerton filled out and submitted the multiple forms indicated by the SSA, but the SSA representatives questioned whether Frank was actually being homeschooled, interrogated her about his educational materials, and even rejected the forms, saying that she had filled out the wrong ones. Frustrated, Mrs. Pinkerton contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for help.

The litigation team at HSLDA reviewed her forms and notice of intent, and saw no reason why her request to renew Frank’s benefits until he graduated in June shouldn’t be approved. HSLDA wrote a letter to the Virgin Islands SSA to try to remedy the situation, but that office refused to accept the information that Mrs. Pinkerton had provided.

On March 23, HSLDA filed a request with the SSA for reconsideration of the reinstatement of benefits. Within a week, the SSA regional office issued a decision that the paperwork would be acceptable if the Virgin Islands commissioner of education provided a letter saying that the Pinkertons’ homeschool was approved by the state. Although the Virgin Island commissioner of education does not approve homeschools, in order to assist the Pinkertons, HSLDA sent a letter to the commissioner of education explaining the family’s situation and attempting to get a swift resolution to the problem.

The commissioner of education responded quickly to the family, affirming that the commissioner’s office does not approve homeschools, not only because it cannot take responsibility for the education of homeschooled students but also because this would be an overwhelming task. Mrs. Pinkerton sent letters to the governor of the Virgin Islands and her representative in the United States Congress, while HSLDA submitted additional letters to both the SSA regional office and the commissioner of education, explaining that the current SSA policy presented a no-win scenario for homeschoolers.

A representative of the commissioner of education called HSLDA to make sure that we were not asking the commissioner’s office to change its policy. HSLDA explained that we were not asking that the commissioner approve homeschool programs—it was the SSA’s responsibility to change its policy to reflect the laws of the Virgin Islands. The commissioner’s office was pleased that we were encouraging the SSA to do this.

At the beginning of July, HSLDA received another call from the Pinkertons. Without any letter of explanation, the family had received a check from Social Security for the three months of benefits that Frank had not received. The family expressed their gratitude for the work HSLDA did to assist them and thanked us for our encouragement and guidance during the proceedings.


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