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On April 6, 2005, we reported that Diane Heath [not her real name] had waited 31 months to get a "Fair Hearing" in her child neglect case. In September, 2002, the Department of Social Services had investigated her unapproved homeschool and "supported" an allegation of child neglect. Ms. Heath requested a fair hearing and began to wait.
Thirty-one months later, on April 5, HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville flew to Massachusetts to attend the Fair Hearing. Mr. Somerville explained the constitutional dimensions of home education in Massachusetts, and argued that DSS would have to prove that the education in the home was less thorough, efficient, or made less progress than the local public school to be deemed "educational neglect." The Department of Social Services, by contrast, argued that even one day of unapproved home education would constitute "neglect." The hearing officer took the case under advisement and announced that results would be forthcoming within 45 days.
It did not take 45 days to get results, however. To the credit of DSS, the Area Director intervened to reverse the initial decision to "support" the educational neglect determination. Though it may have taken 31 months to get the Fair Hearing, it only took 48 hours to get the right result. We applaud DSS for doing the right thing voluntarily.
Sadly, too many Massachusetts parents have experienced the anguish of a wrongful determination of child neglect (or abuse), and too many families have waited for years to have that determination reviewed. While this family has much to rejoice, every Massachusetts homeschooling family still has work to do to ensure justice for all. We encourage all Massachusetts homeschoolers to join HSLDA and work together to achieve equally good outcomes for every innocent homeschool family.