For the second year in a row HSLDA has been forced to sue Richard Wallace, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh SchOol District, for violation of the civil rights of home-schooling parents.
Daniel and Kathleen Deely wanted to begin home schooling their daughter in February. Pennsylvania law requires parents to file an affidavit “before commencing home instruction and by August 1 thereafter.” Mrs. Deely filed the affidavit a few days before commencing home instruction in late February.
Superintendent Wallace, however, contended that the Deelys could not commence home instruction since they had not filed notice by August 1. The Deelys furnished a copy of a letter they had received from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, disagreeing with the Superintendent's reading of the statute. Mr. Wallace responded by filing criminal truancy charges against Mrs. Deely.
Supt. Wallace's blatantly illegal action follows closely on the heels of his unsuccessful attempt to force home schoolers in Pittsburgh to take a series of tests not required by state law. HSLDA then sued Mr. Wallace and the Pittsburgh School District over his attempt to coerce families to test their children with up to 17 tests a year in the public schools.
Although last year's federal suit was dismissed for prematurity, the federal court blasted Supt. Wallace for having chosen to “arbitrarily flout state law.” The court contended that a federal suit would be premature unless Mr. Wallace had acted to deny a family the right to home school. In the Deely matter, he clearly crossed that line, so Attorney Michael Farris once again filed a federal civil rights action against him.
The new suit asks for a declaratory ruling that Mr. Wallace has violated state law and the federal civil rights of the Deelys. The suit also seeks damages and an injunction against any further criminal prosecution. In addition, HSLDA sued Mr. Wallace for sex discrimination since he filed criminal charges solely against Mrs. Deely even though he had notice that Mr. Deely was involved with the family's home-schooling program. HSLDA contends that filing criminal charges solely against a mother is a tactic of harassment, designed to cause a family to be pressured into giving up home education.
HSLDA has also sought an additional form of relief unprecedented in home-schooling litigation. We have requested the federal court to remove Mr. Wallace from office insofar as it relates to his statutory duties for home schooling and to appoint a federal receiver to perform these functions in his stead.
Mrs. Deely's criminal truancy charge was set to be tried in state court on May 1. However, two days before trial HSLDA received notice that the school district requested the trial date to be stricken until the federal suit could be resolved.