The School Year in Review: Contact Countdown
During the 1987–88 school year, 625 HSLDA member families were contacted by their school districts or other officials in a manner requiring some type of intervention by HSLDA attorneys, about twice the number of such situations encountered by HSLDA families a year ago. Most of these contacts were resolved without going to court, through negotiation in which HSLDA convinced school officials that the families were capable of educating their children, and that their requirements or fears were unreasonable. Often HSLDA helped to clarify the state law or regulations to school officials who wanted to go beyond their legal authority in monitoring home schoolers.
Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Ohio had the greatest number of contacts for this school year. New regulations passed in June by the Board of Regents in New York should put an end to most of contacts in that state, which this year included several investigations of member families for reports of educational neglect of their children. In all of these cases except two, the local Department of Social Services investigators were convinced to unfound their reports and the families were vindicated of the neglect charges. Of the two cases that went to court, one is still unresolved, while in the second (the Blackwelder family court case), the judge determined that no neglect of children had occurred.
In Pennsylvania, the vague compulsory education law (which calls simply for instruction to be given by a “properly qualified private tutor . . . . if such instruction is satisfactory” to the local superintendent) continues to be the cause of many problems. Superintendents throughout the state persist in setting standards which are sometimes completely unreasonable, and/or in some way violate the family’s religious convictions. HSLDA’s Chris Klicka has devoted many hours this year in talking to and corresponding with school officials in Pennsylvania to work compromises between districts and families. At press time, 60 families had resolved their problems with their district, while eighteen families remain in court.
North Dakota had a very high percentage of contacts for the number of families in that state. Because of North Dakota’s strict teacher certification requirement, almost every family who is discovered or otherwise comes into contact with the state encounters problems which cannot be resolved through negotiation, and therefore goes through the appeals process up through the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and then into the court system. So far, HSLDA has appealed four separate cases to the North Dakota Supreme Court, and although one decision reversed the families’ truancy convictions, the Court ruled in the three remaining cases that the certification requirement was constitutional. These three cases will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.