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HSLDA Defeats Demand for Involuntary Educational Evaluations
|Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole is a member of HSLDA’s litigation team. He is married and the father of three small children.|
A New Jersey family will not have to surrender their children to educational evaluations conducted by the public schools, thanks to the timely intervention of HSLDA.
The case began when the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency received a report that the parents did not send their children to school, and that the father had said that he did “not believe in public school.” Beyond that, the reporter had no other concerns about the family.
Armed only with this information, the division went to the family’s home, obtained entrance, conducted a thorough inspection of the home and grounds, and interviewed the family’s three school-age children.
During these interviews, the caseworkers learned that the family homeschooled and were given an opportunity to view the family’s schoolroom and curriculum. One of the caseworkers also asked the children to perform spur-of-the-moment math computations, some of which the children answered incorrectly. Later, the family provided the caseworkers with three binders full of curriculum and educational assignments that the children had completed.
Not content with this information, the division then told the parents to make their children available for educational evaluations, to be conducted by the local public school. When the parents refused, the division applied to the juvenile court for an order requiring that the parents submit their children to involuntary public-school testing.
The family hired a local attorney, who had worked with HSLDA in the past. Their attorney then contacted HSLDA for assistance in defeating the division’s efforts.
Preparing for Court
Prior to the hearing, HSLDA arranged for the children to be seen by a private evaluator, who identified the strengths of the parents’ homeschool program. HSLDA Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole also prepared a detailed legal memorandum, arguing that the bare complaint that the children were not sent to school did not constitute neglect because homeschooling is a legal educational alternative in New Jersey.
Moreover, the family had previously cooperated with the division in a lengthy investigation, and state law neither permitted the government to review or approve the curriculum or program of instruction used in a homeschool, or to monitor the educational outcomes of homeschooled students.
Despite these efforts, the juvenile court judge granted the department’s request for the order, even though several important statutory requirements were wholly ignored. Even though the judge was told that the children had already been seen by a private evaluator, who was available to testify by phone, the judge ordered the parents to make their children available for involuntarily testing within two weeks.
The following day, HSLDA began preparing an emergency appeal, drawing upon a similar case that had been successfully litigated more than 10 years before. Within a week, HSLDA filed an emergency appeal and request for stay with the appellate court, arguing that the juvenile court judge had acted improperly in granting the division’s request. HSLDA also filed a request for the juvenile judge to reconsider his earlier ruling, and a hearing was scheduled.
Faced with the prospect of the juvenile court hearing and appeal, the division contacted the family and offered to drop their demand for involuntary evaluations if the family would provide the results of the private evaluations that had already been done. Upon receiving these results, the division dropped all proceedings against the family.
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