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Rhode Island

March 20, 2007

School District Files Truancy Charges against Out-of-District Homeschooler

A simple failure in communication between two Rhode Island school districts dragged one single mom into truancy court in Rhode Island this February. Had it not been for HSLDA’s intervention, the error would have resulted in a truancy conviction.

Case: North Providence School District v. G Family (RI)
Filed: February 8, 2007

HSLDA member mom Cassie Garrett* began homeschooling her son this year in the North Providence School District. The school district was somewhat slow in approving her academic program, and during the middle of the school year, Mrs. Garrett moved into the Pawtucket School District. She then, once again, submitted all of her homeschool information to the superintendent’s office in Pawtucket School District.

The North Providence School District, however, was unaware that the Garretts had moved out of their jurisdiction, and they filed truancy charges against our member. Because they delivered the notice to the family’s old address, HSLDA only discovered the truancy hearing on the afternoon before it occurred.

HSLDA’s Litigation Department immediately secured local counsel to appear with Mrs. Garrett before the truancy court in North Providence. At that initial hearing, local counsel Lisa Waggoner explained to the judge that Mrs. Garrett was in full compliance with the law in Pawtucket School District. The judge asked Ms. Waggoner to appear before him one week later with a letter from Pawtucket School District stating that Mrs. Garrett was indeed in compliance with the law.

During that week, Mrs. Garrett tried several times to obtain such a letter from Pawtucket. While they were verbally willing to acknowledge that she had submitted all required information, Pawtucket School District never issues such letters for homeschoolers. HSLDA attorneys Scott Woodruff and Darren Jones contacted the school district several times on behalf of Mrs. Garrett, but it steadfastly refused to put anything on paper. During this week, the truancy officer for Pawtucket called the truancy officer for North Providence and explained the situation. The North Providence truancy officer agreed at that point that they should not pursue the case further.

The next week, Mrs. Garrett and her attorney were both forced to reappear in court and explain to the judge the unwillingness of the Pawtucket School District to help them comply with his order. The judge then asked his court clerk to call the school district, which once again confirmed that Mrs. Garrett was in full compliance with the Rhode Island home education law.

The judge then dismissed the case.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.