Three civil rights lawsuits for HSLDA familiesall victims of unlawful conduct by government officialswere recently settled when the defendants agreed to compensate the plaintiffs.
CASE: Monasmith v. Santos, et al.
Robin Monasmith home schools her four children, ages 14, 12, 11 and 7. Around three oclock one afternoon, she was startled to find three Dixon, California, police officers knocking on her door. The officials were investigating an allegation that her children were not in school and requested permission to enter the house.
When Mrs. Monasmith asked if they had a warrant, an officer replied, We dont need one. Despite her protests, the officers entered the house. Refusing to permit the woman to call her husband, a detective grilled her with questions: How long have you home schooled? Do you have food in the refrigerator? How much do you spend per month on food?
After questioning the mother, the detective moved to the rear of the house to interrogate the children. When Mrs. Monasmith attempted to follow, she was deterred. Each child was questioned about discipline, home education and their hobbies. The youngest child cried throughout the invasion, and all of the children feared that their mother would be arrested or that they would be taken away.
Finding no evidence of educational neglect, the officials left, promising to return for a follow-up visit in a few days. Although they never did return, this mother and her children were paralyzed with fear every time the phone rang or doorbell sounded over the next few weeks.
HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Monasmiths, alleging violation of the familys right to be safe and secure in their home. During the process, it was learned that the report of neglect had been made when a block captain was tipped off by a neighbor hostile to the Monasmiths child rearing standards. It is precisely this kind of uncorroborated hearsay that should never gain an official entrance to ones home. The lawsuit was settled for $25,000.
CASE: Susan Davis v. Grant A. Rowland, Jr. and the Washington County Board of Education
Susan Davis was a school bus driver in Washington County, Tennesseeuntil she and her husband recently decided to home school their children. The day after Susan Davis submitted her notice of intent to home school to School Superintendent Grant Rowland, he terminated her job. Though Rowlands termination letter gave no reason for the discharge, he later told Mrs. Davis that she was fired for occasionally using the bus for personal errands. However, Mrs. Davis contended that the transportation director permitted using the bus for errands en route to assignments. Rather, she believed that she was fired for exercising her constitutional right to direct the education of her children.
HSLDA retained a private investigator to observe and videotape the countys school buses. The surveillance produced a bonanza of evidence documenting Washington County Board of Education buses rolling to tanning salons, second jobs, and hardware stores all over the county.
HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Mrs. Davis alleging that she had been terminated for the exercise of her constitutional rights. Superintendent Rowland answered the lawsuit by claiming she was fired for unauthorized use of a county vehicle. But, within 30 days of delivery of the videotape to opposing counsel, the case was settled for $16,500, an amount which represents more than two years of Mrs. Davis pay as a driver.
CASE: Newton v. William Oldham, Memphis Chief of Police
Around 10:30 one Wednesday morning, 15-year-old Scott Newton was arrested while riding his bicycle on his residential street during a school break. A Memphis Police Department officer pulled up next to the boy and asked why he was not in school. Scott explained that he was home schooled.
In a disbelieving tone, the officer said, Yeah, well, well see about that. Get in the backseat. After the youth obediently entered the car, he asked what he had done. The officer told the boy that he was skippin school.
But Im home schooled, exclaimed Scott.
Maybe you is, maybe you aint, it dont matter, replied the officer. You still breaking the law.
He proceeded to escort Scott to Kingsbury School without even allowing the young man to notify his parents. At the school, officials mocked and harassed the boy and told him home schooling should be illegal.
On behalf of the Newtons, HSLDA wrote the mayor and chief of police, advising that the family was willing to forgive the offending officer, provided the officer acknowledge his inappropriate conduct and the police department issue a policy change to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Both the mayors and police directors office dodged this request, so HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal district court.
During a telephone conference between HSLDA, the Memphis City Attorney, and the judge, the city attorney recognized that the police officer had violated Scott Newtons right to be safe and secure from seizure without probable cause. The case has now been settled for $8,000. Neither HSLDA nor anyone from the Newton family was required to make a single court appearance. In addition to this monetary settlement, the police legal adviser has recommended to the chief of police that the MPD no longer participate in truancy sweeps.