|| LEGAL/LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
ACROSS THE STATES
When her son brought home a report card with 17 Fs, Mary Crane* knew something had to change. Her son should have been held back a grade the previous year, but his teacher had said he must advance to 3rd grade because of his age and height. After seeing the report card, Mrs. Crane told her son's teacher that if the boy made no real progress in one week she would homeschool him, adding that he would probably respond to encouragement such as stickers and smiley faces. The teacher said that with 23 students in her class, she was too busy to draw smiley faces on students' papers.
At the end of the week, Mrs. Crane's son was doing no better. She wrote a letter to the school guidance counselor stating that she was withdrawing her son and that he would be attending a private school (homeschools are considered private schools in Kansas). Mrs. Crane registered her Kansas City-area home based private school with the state board of education.
Two weeks later, Mrs. Crane responded to a knock at her door and was shocked to find a social worker who wanted to come in and question her and her children. Mrs. Crane declined, and the social worker departed. Mrs. Crane then called the guidance counselor at her son's old school. He admitted that he had sent the social worker because he didn't like the way Mrs. Crane wrote the letter withdrawing her son.
As if this indignity were not enough, two weeks later Mrs. Crane and her husband received a summons to appear in district court to answer a charge that their son was "in need of care" because of truancy. The judge appointed a guardian ad litem (authorized to act as a substitute parent on any issues relating to that particular litigation). Unfortunately, guardians ad litem sometimes disregard the preferences of the children they represent, advocating instead for their own personal vision of what is best for the children.
Home School Legal Defense Association hired Kent Vincent, an attorney and homeschool dad from Topeka, to represent this member family. On the morning of the court date, he showed the guardian ad litem a list of Mrs. Crane's books, her schedule, an outline of her school program, and evidence that she had registered her home based private school. The guardian ad litem was convinced.
After meeting with the guardian ad litem, the judge threw out the case despite the prosecutor's protests that homeschooling would not "work" for this child. Unmoved, the judge replied that the child's education was the parents' responsibility, and they could choose the type of education they believed to be best for their son.
Sometimes, children who appear to be failing in public school thrive in the nurturing environment of a homeschool. The public school's black sheep may yet become the blue-ribbon sheep. We are grateful the judge respected these parents' rights so they could give their child a second chance.
by Scott A. Woodruff
* Family's name changed to protect privacy.
See "HSLDA social services contact policy".