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The Idaho Department Of Health and Welfare (DHW) has issued a new checklist that tells social workers how they should investigate homeschool families accused of educational neglect.
After discovering early this year that DHW had used the opportunity of the passage of a good homeschool bill, Senate Bill 1017, as an excuse to change its guidelines for investigating homeschoolers, Idaho Coalition of Home Educators’ board of legal advisors, CHOIS’ Linda Patchin, and HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff spent several months working to make changes.
DHW listened carefully to their concerns. As a result, the new checklist provides meaningful protection against frivolous accusations. Here are a few highlights.
If a caller reports that a family is homeschooling, the DHW representative will tell him that homeschooling is legal and does not constitute educational neglect. If the caller gives detailed, credible evidence that the child is not receiving instruction as required under law, a social worker will open an investigation. But if the caller does not provide such evidence, no investigation will be opened.
If an investigation is opened, the family will be given the opportunity to show that the report is not credible, or show evidence that refutes the report (such as their curriculum, or test scores, or lesson plans, or a description of educational efforts, etc.). This will result in the case being closed.
The checklist also provides social workers a list of examples of what is not evidence of educational neglect, including:
- A child who is learning at a slower rate than others of the same age
- Use of an unconventional curriculum, schedule, or teaching methods.
The “Guidelines for the Assessment of Claims of Educational Neglect,” the document’s formal name, changes the landscape in Idaho. Any guidance you previously received may therefore no longer be helpful. If a report against your family gets through the initial screening process and a social worker shows up at your door, an excellent strategy would be to seek individualized guidance promptly before responding.
HSLDA Social Services Contact Policy
We desire to advise our members in every contact with a social worker and/or police officer in investigations resulting from allegations of abuse or neglect. If homeschooling is an issue, we will represent our member families until the issue is resolved. On Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure issues, HSLDA will advise our members whenever the privacy of their home is violated by forced or coerced entry for the purpose of an unsubstantiated investigation. HSLDA membership benefits do not extend to court actions resulting from non-homeschooling matters. However, in circumstances where there is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, HSLDA may, as we have done in the past, choose to take the case in an effort to establish legal precedent.