The school year 1988–89 was an unusual year because none of HSLDA's member families attended a student attendance review board hearing, nor was any action filed in court against a member family. The Lord deserves all the praise and glory.
Throughout the year thirty HSLDA member families were contacted by school officials which required action on the part of attorney Michael Smith. All of those contacts have been resolved. As usual, HSLDA did not hear from most of the school officials after their contact by telephone or written correspondence.
Department of Social Services Makes Trouble
The most serious contact of the year involved a disgruntled neighbor anonymously contacting the Department of Social Services with a child abuse and neglect complaint against a member family. The DPSS worker attempted contact while the parents were out of town, leaving a card for referral. Upon arriving home, the parents contacted the social worker. The social worker indicated that because of the anonymous report, it would be necessary for the social worker to visit the home and observe the children.
The mother had not retained the name of the social worker and therefore, attorney Michael Smith was unable to make contact with the social worker prior to her intended arrival time. Two key reminders need to be made. First, before contacting the social worker, this office should have been contacted so that the legal staff could make contact on behalf of the family. The reason the family did not contact HSLDA first is because they did not associate the contact with their home school program. Please be reminded that the child protection division of the Department of Social Services does make contacts associated with alleged truancy. This does not normally occur, however, unless there are allegations of child abuse or neglect.
The second reminder is to obtain the name, telephone number, and where possible, the address of the contacting person. It is an absolute must that HSLDA be able to make telephone contact with any official that should make contact with a member family. Because this office could not contact the social worker, Rex Lowe, a local attorney in Southern California was hired by HSLDA. He was directed to contact the family and then proceed to their home in order to be present when the social worker arrived. The social worker was definitely surprised to find the family represented by an attorney when she arrived. Mr. Lowe was able to explain the legalities of home education in California and after the social worker observed the home and the children, she concluded that the report was not true regarding neglect and abuse.
San Bernardino Challenges Home Schools
As expected, there continue to be new developments regarding the interpretation of the private school exemption as it applies to home schoolers. The latest development concerns San Bernardino County. Two school districts thus far, Redlands and Rialto, have been contacting home schooling families that have filed private school affidavits, for the purpose of offering an independent study program through the public school. This, in and of itself, would not be of much concern to home schoolers.
However, these districts are indicating that they have the responsibility and authority of granting “prior approval” of the private school. In order to “approve” the school as legal, the districts are alleging that the school must produce, in addition to the three requirements contained in sections 48222 and 33190 of the Education Code, proof of compliance with fire and safety codes of local jurisdiction, and a valid occupancy permit issued by the city where the school is located.
In addition, the child welfare coordinator for Rialto said that the Clevenger case has decided that any teacher in a private school must be certified. None of these allegations are supported by the law.
The Clevenger case involved a family in Lancaster who was harassed by the superintendent to enroll in the public school's home school program. The family refused and as a result, truancy charges were filed in municipal court. The family had filed a private school affidavit and were in compliance with all of the other private school requirements.
After the judge in Clevenger refused to grant HSLDA's pre-trial motion, the family decided to terminate their home school program. As a result, the case was dismissed. No written or substantive decision was even rendered by the judge because the case never went to trial. The judge simply did not grant HSLDA's pre-trial motion. The judge never ruled that a certificate is required to teach in a private school nor did he have the authority to do so.
Home Schools Are Private Schools
HSLDA continues to assert that home schoolers can comply with all of the legal requirements to be a properly formed private school. Additionally, HSLDA contends that there is no authority for public school officials to approve private schools. The provisions of verification of information contained in the private school affidavit should only become relevant when a particular child's attendance at a public or private school is at issue. The legislature did not intend for the filing of the private school affidavits to trigger investigations by public school officials.
This would constitute a public schools' approval of private school programs which is prohibited by the establishment clause of the Constitution. Further, the final sentence of Education Code sec. 48222 reads as follows: “The verification required by this section shall not be construed as an evaluation, recognition, approval, or endorsement of any private school or course.”
Therefore, the attempt to obtain records from private schools to verify that they really are being kept is a statement by the public school officials that they do not believe the administrator of the private school who certifies under penalty of perjury that the records are being kept when the private school affidavit is filed. It appears that the concern of the public school officials in the above two school districts is not whether the records are being kept, or quality of education, it is money and control.