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by James R. Mason
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HUFF & PUFF and Blow Our Rights away—HSLDA Seeks Supreme Court Review of Case

“Let me in or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and … I’ll take your kids!”

No, these are not the words of the Big Bad Wolf. They are, however, the words of two Arizona child protective services (CPS) workers who were investigating a two-month-old anonymous report that the home of homeschoolers John and Tiffany Loudermilk contained safety hazards (except for the huff and puff part—I made that up).

For 40 terrifying minutes, the Loudermilks asserted their 4th Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search of their home. They even had Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Thomas Schmidt on the line. But when the social workers called in six uniformed sheriff’s deputies as reinforcements and threatened to take the children into state custody, the parents gave in.

In the two months between receiving the anonymous report and arriving unannounced on the front porch, no one at CPS ever believed that the situation was an emergency needing immediate intervention, nor did they request a court order from a judge to search the home. The social workers needed to complete their investigation somehow, though, and asserting 4th Amendment rights just got in the way.

As they drove away, the two social workers discussed the Loudermilks’ reaction to the search of their home. “[W]e couldn’t understand why they made such a big deal out of such a very small thing … we could have been in and out of the home quickly, seen the allegations weren’t true, and instead of that, it turned into a drawn-out affair.”

The social workers’ attitude toward the Loudermilks exemplifies an all-too-common view among law enforcement officials, truant officers, and child protective services workers: parents’ rights simply do not matter.

On March 3, 2006, HSLDA filed a lawsuit in federal court against CPS and the sheriff’s department (see Active Cases in the July/August 2010 Court Report). We argued that the investigators’ threat to remove the children infringed on the Loudermilks’ 14th Amendment right to family privacy and that entering the house without permission disregarded their 4th Amendment rights. The district court agreed with us.

The sheriff’s department then appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, which decided that the deputies could not have reasonably known that threatening to remove children from their parents’ home in nonemergency circumstances was wrong. The Ninth Circuit’s decision is sobering because it appears to endorse threatening to remove children as a tactic to gain warrantless entry of a home with nothing more than a stale anonymous report.

HSLDA has filed a writ of certiorari, asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case to uphold Americans’ traditional right to privacy in their homes. As this article goes to press, we are awaiting a response as to whether the Supreme Court will take this case.

Decisions on cases like Loudermilk expand case law—either strengthening or undermining the foundations of our right to homeschool: the right to privacy, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right of parents to direct their children's care and education, and the freedom of religion.

Your partnership with HSLDA as a member family helps us to fight cases like the Loudermilks’ all the way to the Supreme Court, if needed, and to strengthen our homes against those who would like to huff and puff and blow our rights away.

Visit our Arizona homepage for the latest updates on the Loudermilk case.