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April 11, 2011

Judge Demands Homeschoolers’ Identities—State Supreme Court Says “Not so Fast”

On March 23, 2011, Judge Joe Dale Walker of the Chancery Court of the Thirteenth District in Mississippi issued an order requiring attendance officers in five counties to provide the court with the names and addresses of homeschoolers in that district. The order gave them 10 days to comply.

After attendance officers in the affected counties were served with the order, they mailed letters to all homeschoolers in their respective areas on April 1, 2011, enclosing a copy of the judge’s order. The first time area homeschoolers knew about the order was when they received the letter. Several families contacted HSLDA on Monday, April 4, 2011.

The letters cited the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and asked the families to notify the attendance officer in their county by April 8, 2011, as to whether they intended to initiate legal action to prevent release of the information sought by Judge Walker.

The order has no case number, no county of venue, and lists no parties to any dispute. It appears to be simply information that the judge would like to have. We do not know why Judge Walker is seeking this information, but we believe it is an inappropriate use of judicial power.

Within hours of hearing from our members in Mississippi, HSLDA associated with local counsel, Sharkey Burke of Anderson Crawley & Burke, pllc, in Ridgeland, Mississippi. On Tuesday, April 5, 2011, we filed a Writ of Prohibition and Emergency Motion to Stay in the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

In an order signed April 6, 2011, the Supreme Court of Mississippi stayed all proceedings in the case and ordered Judge Walker to respond by April 18, 2011, and explain by what authority he issued his order of March 23, 2011.

At this time it is uncertain how the Supreme Court will proceed after receiving Judge Walker’s response. It may simply issue an order disposing of the case or may require legal briefs and/or oral argument before issuing a final decision. In any event, we will keep you advised of the status of the case.

HSLDA considers the Supreme Court’s action in issuing the stay to be a positive development in our effort to protect the privacy of homeschoolers in Mississippi.

 Other Resources

WorldNetDaily.com: “Judge threatens jail in homeschool case”

WorldNetDaily.com: “Shocker! On his own, judge demands homeschool student IDs”