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February 7, 2007

Listening Only to Christian Music Considered Child Abuse?

At the end of January, in Port Huron, Michigan, the Millings family* were minding their own business, homeschooling their children. Suddenly a social worker knocked at the door demanding entry. When the mother refused to let her in, and handed her a piece of paper describing her rights, the social worker crumpled up the paper and said, “I’m not dealing with it.” Then she stated that if she couldn’t come in to examine the children she would get the police. She yelled over the mom’s objections that she wanted to “come in now” and do a strip search of one of the children.

The allegations by the anonymous tipster were absurd. The family was accused of “only allowing their two boys to listen to Christian music.” The tipster said that the children “ate their cheerios dry” and received nearly all their “socialization through their church.” The tipster asserted the children were not in school. Furthermore, the anonymous tipster said the “fourteen- and ten-year-old were seen outside playing without adult supervision” and the mother “pinched and hit her kids in church to keep them quiet.” The last allegation was the reason why the social worker wanted to strip search one of the children.

Chris Klicka of Home School Legal Defense Association immediately sent a letter to the social worker indicating the rudeness and unprofessionalism of her visit. He also indicated that she obviously didn’t receive her social worker training in the Fourth Amendment. HSLDA, a year and a half earlier, drafted and helped persuade legislators to pass a law requiring all social workers in Michigan to receive training in their “duty to protect both statutory and constitutional rights of those being investigated.”

The Millings were able to get a statement from a local doctor indicating that the children were not abused, and letters from various individuals who vouched for them being good parents.

Unfortunately, the anonymous tipster struck again and made another call. When the social worker renewed her efforts to personally interview and strip search the children, she indicated to Klicka that if she was not allowed to get into the home to do this, she would seek a court order.

Klicka responded with, “You can’t get a court order, because there is no probable cause.” He explained that an anonymous tip does not rise to the level of probable cause and that a court order could not be issued because there was not credible evidence. The social worker closed by saying she would seek a court order by Friday.

By Monday, the social worker contacted the family and said that they were going to be dropping the investigation.

We praise God for this victory, and the courage of the Millings family.

After the case was closed, the Millings wrote this encouraging note:

“Thank you so very much for all of your help during the recent investigation and threats by a social worker from the Child Protective Services section of the Department of Human Services here. We are so thankful for HSLDA! We had considered not renewing last year, as we’d never needed any services, but we are glad we did renew, and will be doing so again before our year is up next month. We are telling every homeschool family we know who has not joined, that they should. During this time, our children were very frightened, as were we, and if not for HSLDA, we might not have had the strength to stand firm on our fourth amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Thank you again, so much!”

* Name changed to protect family’s privacy.

HSLDA Social Services Contact Policy

We desire to assist and advise our members in every contact with a social worker and/or police officer in the investigation 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 assist and 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.

 Other Resources

The Social Worker At Your Door: 10 Helpful Hints (HSLDA members only document)