Court Ignores Statute
According to state statute, home schoolers in Alabama have two basic options under which they may operate. They can be certified by the state or use a certified teacher, or they can operate as a ministry of a church or denomination. Most home schoolers choose the second option.
This fall, home-schooling families throughout the state have experienced harassment at the hands of their local districts, and in some cases the confrontations have been particularly hostile. The Maas family in DeKalb County experienced particularly harsh treatment when they were contacted by a truant officer who demanded that the children be immediately enrolled in public school. Mr. Maas responded by saying that they were not going to enroll their children in school. Two hours later the truant officer returned with police who hand-cuffed the father, took him to jail, and detained him overnight.
The next day Mr. Maas was released on bond, and the case was turned over to the court. Home School Legal Defense Association attorney Christopher Klicka repeatedly contacted the prosecutor to convince him that the case should be dismissed because the state statute requires that parents of children suspected of truancy are to be given written notice and have three days to respond. The school district failed to comply with the law. Precedent in favor of the family was also set by the Alabama Supreme Court which ruled in an earlier case to dismiss the conviction against a parent who was not given written notification and three days to respond. The prosecutor, however, refused to drop the case.
HSLDA then secured Jim Hess, an attorney from Huntsville, to represent Mr. Maas in court. The local court refused to acknowledge the statute or the Alabama Supreme Court case and ruled against Mr. Maas. Christopher Klicka is appealing this case to the Court of Appeals—solely on the issue that the statutory requirement of three-day written notice was violated. Please pray for the Maas family that this case will be overturned and the due process rights of home schoolers throughout Alabama will be protected.
Other Counties Challenge Home Schoolers
Member families in Geneva, Butler, Mobile, Marshall, and Houston counties have also experienced difficulty this fall. In each of these cases school officials disputed the validity of the church school option. HSLDA contacted the school authorities and defended the legality of this option. In Marshall County a court hearing had been scheduled, but Attorney Klicka was able to convince the superintendent to withdraw his petition.
Only the Houston County situation has yet to be resolved. In this case a petition alleging truancy has been filed with the Houston County Juvenile Court against the Richards family even though they are operating under a church. HSLDA legal staff is working to get this case dismissed. Pray for this family that the school district will cease its harassment and that they will be able to continue teaching their children in peace.