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Minnesota

June 1, 2012

Officer to Mom: “I’m Taking Your Children Into Custody Now”


Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly answers questions and assists members regarding legal issues in Minnesota. He and his wife homeschool. Read more >>

After attending to a load of laundry and returning to her front yard where her children were playing, Mrs. Smith was shocked to find a police officer holding her youngest daughter. When Mrs. Smith (name changed to protect privacy) asked for her child back, the officer, visibly angrily, refused and stated that not only would she not be getting her daughter back, but that he intended to take all three children into custody and place them in foster care that night.

Mrs. Smith had been gone just a minute or two. She had given her children instructions to stay in the yard and had left an older child to supervise them temporarily while she changed the laundry. It was then the officer drove down the road, saw the children playing in the yard, apparently unsupervised, and stopped to investigate.

As the officer berated her and continued to threaten her with the removal of her children, Mrs. Smith tried to explain the situation. The officer, however, insisted that she was a bad, neglectful parent. In front of Mrs. Smith’s children he continued to insist they would be going into foster care that very night.

With difficulty Mrs. Smith retained her composure and tried to reason with the police officer. She told him she could hear her children through an open window during the brief period of time she was inside and that she knew they would stay in the yard. The tense standoff continued for some minutes as the officer continued to berate her. Eventually, Mrs. Smith was able to get the officer to relent from taking the children immediately into custody. However, the officer stated that he would refer the matter to social services.

Mrs. Smith then called HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael P. Donnelly, who was able to advise her about her legal rights and how to handle the impending social services investigation which was eventually closed.

Homeschooling provides a high degree of flexibility and allows parents to give their children more opportunities to play and enjoy time outside of the “home classroom.” In decades past homeschoolers knew that occurrences like the one Mrs. Smith experienced were common. Many homeschoolers kept their children indoors in order to avoid this kind of interaction with authorities.

However, today homeschooling is an increasingly mainstream educational alternative. Many people now understand that just because they see children outside during school hours it doesn’t mean that they are not being supervised.

Nevertheless, it is important for homeschoolers to understand that this kind of interaction can still happen, as there continue to be many police, truant officers, neighbors and even friends and family who might initiate action against a homeschool family. The Smiths were grateful that they could turn to HSLDA to defend their family and their right to educate their children as they deem fit.

Do you know a homeschooling family who is not a member of HSLDA? If you do, share this story with them and encourage them to join HSLDA. They can also enjoy the safety and peace of mind that comes with having experienced homeschooling attorneys who are just a phone call away, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, dedicated to protecting their individual family and the homeschooling movement.

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.