The Home School Court Report
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MAY / JUNE 1999
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Cover Story
Does One Size Really Fit All?

Special Features
Hard Work and Prayer Make David Beihl the Best He Can Be

A New Strategy on RLPA

Strings Attached to Vouchers Weave an Entangling Web

National Center Reports
Ed Flex Act Passes Congress

Pending Matters: Your Call Counts

Light Within Congress

Weyrich Letter Makes Waves

Across the States
State by State

Regular Features
Press Clippings

Active Cases

Prayer and Praise

A Contrario Sensu

President’s Page

L  I  T  I  G  A  T  I  O  N     R  E  P  O  R  T
Active Cases
In re Donnie C

    After being labeled as a special education student and spending several miserable years in public school, 10-year-old Donnie C is being educated at home by his parents. But the public school system was not so quick to let him go. A petition has been filed in Crawford County, Kansas, alleging that Donnie C is a “child in need of care” because he is being educated in violation of state law. The county attorney and the court appointed guardian ad litem question the competence of Mr. and Mrs. C, as well as whether the hours of instruction are “substantially equivalent” to those in the public school.
    In order to avoid the uncertain result of a trial, Mr. and Mrs. C have agreed to informal supervision by the guardian ad litem for a three-month period. The guardian will meet with Donnie twice during that time and will review the attendance records kept by Mrs. C. If the guardian is convinced that Donnie’s education is in his best interest, then the case will be dismissed. Otherwise, the case will be set for trial, at which time Home School Legal Defense Association will bring two education experts to testify as to the excellence of the family’s home instruction program.

New Jersey
Howard Forstrom v. Fair Lawn School District

    Seven-year-old Gregory Forstrom would be entitled to speech and language therapy at state expense if he attended a public school or traditional private school. But because he is being educated “elsewhere than at school,” the local school district refuses to provide the therapy. This lawsuit requests the Bergen County Superior Court to declare whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and New Jersey law require the school district to provide special education services to home school students.
    When the Forstroms were initially denied services for their son by the school district, they requested a due process hearing. The state department of education refused to grant them a hearing, stating that neither services nor a hearing are available to home educated students. Now the department of education has intervened in this lawsuit against the school district and is urging the judge to dismiss the case because the Forstroms have not had a due process hearing. It is ironic that the very department who refused to grant the family a hearing is now asking the court to dismiss the case because there has been no hearing.
    On April 30, 1999, Judge Isabel Stark denied the motion to dismiss. While making her ruling, the court advised the department that unless it can point out a federal or state statute authorizing discrimination against home schooling, it will order that services be provided. The case is set for hearing on July 23, 1999.

Newton v. William Oldham, Chief of Police

    Both the Memphis mayor’s and police director’s offices have refused to acknowledge a police officer’s error in apprehending a 15-year-old home schooled boy for violating the compulsory attendance law. Following the incident last September, HSLDA wrote the mayor and chief of police on behalf of the young man’s family, advising that Scott Newton and his parents are willing to forgive the offending officer, provided the officer acknowledges his inappropriate conduct and the police department issues a policy change to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
    Scott Newton had been riding his bicycle on his street near his home around 10:30 a.m. on that September morning. Suddenly, a Memphis police officer pulled up and asked why the youth was not in school. Although Scott explained that he was home schooled, the officer refused to believe the boy and escorted him to the local school without allowing him to call his parents. At the school, he was mocked, harassed, and told “home schooling should be illegal.”
    Since HSLDA’s request has been dodged by Memphis officials, it has been necessary to file a complaint for violation of civil rights in order to get their attention. The errant officer will now be compelled to explain his conduct and the city obligated to justify its unlawful policy.