Mr. & Mrs. Dayle Gallagher v. Southington Public Schools and the Board of Education Services for the Blind
Kaitlyn Gallagher is a blind nine-year-old student who attended public school prior to the 1997–98 school year. But when Kaitlyns parents decided to teach her at home, the school district refused to continue providing the special equipment and Braille materials she needs. Home School Legal Defense Association filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Gallaghers in federal court on March 23, 1998.
Both federal and Connecticut law require school districts to provide special education services to children in public and private school. However, the state department of education denies services to home school students because they are not nonpublic schools or private schools.
In order to settle this case without establishing statewide precedent, the school district has authorized the Board of Education Services for the Blind (BESB) to provide the equipment and materials that Kaitlyn needs. Kaitlyn will receive up to $11,000 of equipment and materials each year, including a special computer. The settlement agreement has been signed and the equipment has been ordered.
HSLDA has elected to represent only a very few special needs families like the Gallaghers in an effort to establish precedent. Similar cases are pending in Nevada and New Jersey.
In re Donnie C
After being labeled as a special education student and spending several miserable years in public school, ten-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 was filed alleging that Donnie C is a child in need of care. The county attorney and the court-appointed guardian ad litem questioned Mr. and Mrs. Cs competence, as well as whether the hours of instruction are substantially equivalent to those in the public school.
In order to avoid the uncertainty of a trial, Mr. and Mrs. C agreed to informal supervision by the guardian ad litem for a three-month period. The extent of the supervision was a single meeting between Donnie and the guardian at which the boy described his home education program. The guardian was satisfied that home education is in Donnies best interest, so the case will be dismissed.
State v. Morales
At the beginning of each school year, Mr. and Mrs. Morales send the local superintendent notice of their intent to home educate their children and a list of the textbooks they will be using in the home instruction program. State law does not require notification, so this procedure is more than adequate in most New Jersey school districts. But the vice principal in the Mahwah Township insists that he must see the books in order to satisfy his obligation to ensure the education of all citizens. Because Mr. and Mrs. Morales refused this demand, they are being criminally prosecuted for violation of the compulsory attendance law.
HSLDA retained Christian Liberty Academy Director of Curriculum, Michael McHugh, to testify that the Morales curriculum had been designed by Christian Liberty following standardized achievement testing. Court rules require, however, that all materials relevant to an experts opinions be provided to the adversary for review. This means that the prosecutor was entitled to see the books and to provide them to his witness, the vice principal. After reviewing the books, the vice principal instructed the prosecutor to dismiss the case. HSLDA is greatly disturbed by this process and is working to devise a better solution for a similar illegal request by a school official for 1999–2000.
State v. Ratliff
In West Virginia, a parent must have satisfactory evidence that the instructor has a high school diploma or its equivalent and formal education at least four years higher than the most academically advanced child. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Ratliff completed high school, but both have completed high school equivalency programs. Mr. Ratliff is being criminally prosecuted for violating the states compulsory attendance law. If the case proceeds to trial, the issue will be whether Mr. Ratliffs equivalency program is the equivalent of a high school diploma. HSLDA expects the case to be set for trial in September.