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North Carolina

March 4, 2010

School District Reports Homeschoolers for Child Neglect

In February, an official with Chatham County Schools contacted a Home School Legal Defense Association member family and requested that they provide documentation proving that they were operating a home school. After the family contacted HSLDA for assistance, Senior Counsel Dewitt Black wrote a letter to the school official and informed him that the parents were conducting a home school for their children, that they had provided notice of their intent to operate a home school to the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education, and that state law does not require the family to provide any documentation in this regard to local public school officials.

Upon receipt of Black’s letter, the school official contacted the Chatham County Department of Social Services and reported the family for child neglect based solely on their decision not to provide the requested documentation. A social worker went to the family’s home and insisted upon conducting a comprehensive social services investigation into every aspect of family life, including an inspection of the home and an interview with each of the children. While the social worker was on the front porch, the mother contacted HSLDA, and Black spoke with the social worker by telephone. He explained that this situation with the family had nothing to do with child neglect but was simply an administrative matter involving paperwork being sought by the local public school officials to which they were not entitled. After the mother permitted the social worker to review the card from the division of non-public education acknowledging the family’s registration with the state, the social worker left the premises to confer further with his superiors about whether to continue the investigation.

On the next business day, Black faxed a letter to the social worker citing In the Matter of Joanie Stumbo, et al, a case decided by the Supreme Court of North Carolina in which HSLDA represented the Stumbo family being investigated by social services in Cleveland County. Black pointed out that the supreme court agreed with HSLDA that social services’ attempt to investigate the Stumbo family was without any legal basis, because the report made to social services did not show a pattern of neglect by the parents. Black asserted again that the report made to social services in Chatham County was not based on any child neglect but was an effort by a public school official to use a social services investigation to achieve its goal of obtaining paperwork from the family. Black insisted that the social worker close the investigation as an unfounded report.

At the time this article was posted , the family had heard nothing further from either the Department of Social Services or the local public school officials.