The 214th Judicial District Court in Nueces County, Texas, was called to order on August 28, 1992, to review the case of a young boy named “Brian” (not his real name), whose natural mother challenged his legal guardians’ decision to remove him from a special education classroom and teach him at home. HSLDA’s Special Needs Coordinator, Janet Wayne, attended the hearing and testified on behalf of Paul and Janis Chapman’s decision to home school Brian.
This case can best be described as unusual. Paul and Janis Chapman are in their early 70s, and they have grown children and grandchildren.
After years of neglect and abuse at the hands of his mother and stepfather, Brian was finally abandoned in a mental institution by his mother. A Corpus Christi attorney found Brian in the mental ward and realized that he did not need to be institutionalized. She obtained legal guardianship of Brian, and Paul and Janis Chapman were appointed his Managing Conservators. His natural mother was given limited visitation rights, but these have since been suspended.
Brian’s experience in the public education system continued the chain of “abuse.” Although he was neither physically or mentally handicapped, he was placed in self-contained special education classes for most of his school years. Functional literacy was the emphasis, and Brian spent his time in school learning to read menus and street signs.
Independent testing at the request of the Chapmans revealed that this 14-year-old boy was barely working at a 3rd grade level in math and reading; yet, each year Brian was promoted to the next grade level. The system had declared him unable to learn.
Janis Chapman is convinced that, given a chance, Brian can learn. She began tutoring him after school and made appointments to meet with school personnel regarding his educational needs. After several unsuccessful meetings, Mrs. Chapman decided to remove Brian from school and teach him at home. His legal guardian concurred. Mrs. Chapman enrolled him in remedial instruction and began outlining an intensive curriculum program.
When Brian’s natural mother learned that the Chapmans had removed her son from public school, she was outraged. She immediately petitioned the court to hold a hearing, charging that home schooling was not in Brian’s best interests based on his emotional and physical needs. The court granted her request and set a hearing for August 28, 1992.
The Chapmans, new members of HSLDA, notified our office of the impending hearing. Kay Harlan, Attorney Ad Litem for Brian, handled the case, and HSLDA’s Janet Wayne provided testimony on the benefits of home schooling Brian.
(This case fell outside our normal duty to our members, but because of the unusual nature and significance of this case we were glad to assist the attorney and provide Janet Wayne as a witness.)
The Director of Special Education for Corpus Christi testified against the Chapmans’ decision to home school Brian. He even went so far as to state that under no circumstances would he consider home schooling appropriate for any child.
During cross examination, the opposing attorney grilled Janet, attempting to show her as a prejudicial witness. But Janet reported that through it all she knew that God was guiding her and giving her words a power and authority that did not come from herself.
The judge ordered that the Chapmans be allowed to home school Brian! Attorney Kay Harlan was ecstatic. She enthusiastically expressed her appreciation for HSLDA’s assistance and for Janet’s helpful testimony. As she put it, “This is a joyful victory!”
Janis Chapman reports that Brian is doing very well in their home school. She also praised Janet and HSLDA for their assistance.