Life After the Schmidt Case
A new positive development has emerged regarding the Schmidt case. As reported in the last issue of the Home School Court Report, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the “approval” process requiring a homeschool family to obtain an excuse from attendance at the public school from the local superintend of the county, city, or village school. It is HSLDA’s opinion that the Ohio Supreme Court erred in failing to address the constitutional and statutory defenses HSLDA raised in their briefs before the court. The court simply said that because the family had not sought the approval of the superintendent for their homeschool program and there is not constitutional basis precluding the requirement, the court would not entertain their defenses to the crime of truancy.
Attorney Mike Farris has requested the U.S. Supreme Court to review this decision by filing a brief with the Court, urging that it grant HSLDA’s writ of certiorari. The state prosecutor indicated that he would not be filing a brief in opposition, but would rely on the record in the lower courts. The Court, however, requested the opposition to file a brief and has given them an extension of time to do so. This could mean that at least one of the justices has taken an interest in the case and desires to review the decision or exercise other options which could result in the setting aside of the decision. Please pray that the U.S. Supreme Court will review this matter and reverse the Ohio Supreme Court decision. Those interested in receiving a copy of our brief to the U.S. Supreme Court may do so by sending us a $7.50 donation and indicating that they would like a copy of the Schmidt brief.
There is other good news. HSLDA has won the Diegel case, an appeal of a denial of a homeschool program in Mercer County. Mike Farris, aided by local attorney Greg Wilson, elicited from the superintendent on cross-examination that he had discussed his homeschool policy with the judge presiding in the case, prior to testifying. Mike Farris immediately moved for a mistrial and obtained a stipulation from the prosecuting attorney that the Diegel family had not received a fair hearing by the superintendent. This resulted in the Diegels prevailing on the appeal. Furthermore, Farris was able to negotiate on approval for the family’s homeschool program for the school year 1987–88. God has certainly been gracious.
However, other families continue to be prosecuted throughout Ohio. At present, five HSLDA families have been denied approval for their homeschool programs by school officials for the current year. HSLDA attorney Mike Smith has filed appeals to the juvenile courts in the following counties to protect these families’ rights: Allen, Summit, Marion, Lawrence, and Morrow. The stated reasons for rejecting the families varied, but one element was consistent with all families and that was the lack of a college diploma. Smith hopes to be able to work out all of these matters without actually having to have a hearing in court as he is still negotiating with the superintendents, urging them to reconsider.
If an HSLDA member in Ohio is informed that his/her homeschool program will be rejected by the superintendent, please call HSLDA immediately. Do not wait for the letter of rejection because HSLDA wants to contact the school official by phone, to discourage him from sending the letter. Once the letter is sent, HSLDA only has 10 days to file an appeal to the juvenile court.
Three families operating non-chartered, non-tax-supported schools in their home have been challenged by public school superintendents who take the position that the families still have to seek their approval. Attorney Smith has submitted letters on behalf of these families in an attempt to convince the officials that this is not a correct interpretation by the school.
It appears that in some cases, the school officials are relying on Schmidt by returning to the families their “notice of intent” indicating that it is necessary for the family to seek an excuse from the superintendent. If that occurs to HSLDA members, they must contact this office immediately for counsel.
Homeschoolers enrolled in a satellite program of a private school have received a mixed reaction from school officials when this type of program has been exposed to superintendent scrutiny. None of the families for whom HSLDA has filed appeals were initially in a satellite program. However, one of the families enrolled in an “04” satellite program after they were denied. When the denying superintendent was so informed, he commented that he had lost his jurisdiction. One other superintendent indicated that there wasn’t anything they could do about a family enrolled in the satellite program.
HSLDA will continue to keep you informed as to the progression of these cases. Only one of the five juvenile court cases has actually been acted upon, that case being the one in Marion County. A hearing date has been set for late October and the judge has asked HSLDA to provide a brief on the law as it applied to homeschooling in Ohio and generally, as he has never heard of one of these cases before. HSLDA solicits your prayers for wisdom in these matters.
In conclusion, HSLDA has been encouraged recently with the possibility that a favorable resolution of these problems could be reached in another forum than the courts, which is a slow, tedious, case-by-case process. Several homeschool leaders in Ohio believe that it may be possible to convince the state board of education to promulgate regulations that would take the discretion out of the purview of the superintendent for approving homeschool programs. Additionally, there may be the opportunity to get legislation passed, which would accomplish the same result. In order for this type of action to be successful, it will be necessary for homeschoolers in Ohio to be actively involved in the process. Therefore, be alert to these possible developments, and please be responsive should either of these developments occur.