A Letter from Alice Blackwelder
Mrs. Alice Blackwelder, mother of the family involved in HSLDA’s federal challenge to New York’s compulsory attendance law, as well as a family court case which they won (See Home School Court Report, Spring ‘88, p. 3), wrote us a letter recently asking for an opportunity to set the record straight on her family’s position throughout their battles with both the family and federal courts, since it has not always been accurately represented, even by the family court and federal judges.
The Blackwelders have been involved in litigation regarding their home schooling for two years now, and have been under fire to a degree that few other families have experienced. Though they have never lost hope, and though the new regulations and their family court victory should at last put an end to their battle, Mrs. Blackwelder asked to be able to explain some of what her family has gone through in the past two years.
Dear Mike Farris and Staff,
I would like to take this opportunity to express heartfelt thanks, on behalf of our family, to you and your staff for your support and encouragement through a very trying year and a half. Just knowing that answers to difficult questions were only a phone call away made the time much easier than it would have been otherwise.
September of 1986 was our first year to home school our two school age daughters, and during the first week of school we were told by our superintendent that legal action would be taken against us if we did not allow a home visit. We had agreed to meet with him and show him our curriculum to relieve any perceived responsibility he felt toward our children. This offer was made, not to seek approval, but rather to show courtesy to his position and hopefully to curtail any further interference of the school into our home. He refused and after two school years has never looked at our curriculum.
During the family court trial, our superintendent testified that I offered to come to his office and put on a mock demonstration of me teaching my children so he could observe me in the teaching process. He also testified that without such a demonstration, which was the purpose of the home visit, he could not determine if our children were receiving a “substantially equivalent” education. This testimony is entirely false. However, in the course of the trial I was never given the opportunity to rebut this statement. The judge wrote in his decision:
The action of the Blackwelders in refusing to cooperate with the District Superintendent is arbitrary, illogical and obstinate. The inconvenience of a limited and infrequent intrusion into the home for a few hours cannot justify the position taken by the Blackwelders. The on-site observation would not constitute, in my opinion, an unlawful search nor does it violate tenets of the respondents’ [Blackwelders’] religion. The argument by respondents that an on-site evaluation must be denied because it “would be construed as an attempt to seek state approval” falls of its own weight in light of Mrs. Blackwelder’s testimony that she voluntarily submitted curriculum, attendance sheets and agreed to state a mock school program at the school. There is no logical distinction between performing the latter acts and allowing on-site observation.
I know it makes no difference now but I would appreciate the opportunity to express to the readers of the Home School Court Report who may have read of this case, that I never offered to allow observation of teaching, mock or otherwise. Our stand has been consistent throughout these two school years that we have the mandate of God to teach our children at home. We have not, nor will we ever seek the approval of the state to be obedient to God.
Thank you for the opportunity to get this off my heart, and thank you to your entire staff for your hard work, and the faithfulness you’ve shown in fighting the good fight of faith to protect families.
God bless you,
Alice I. Blackwelder
“…parents have a constitutional right to choose whether their children will be enrolled in a public or private school setting and there has been a dramatic increase in the past few years in the number of parents deciding to educate their children at home. For many students, home instruction is a viable and effective education.”
Charles J. O'Mally
Executive Assistant for Private Education
U.S. Department of Education