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December 7, 2011

False Truancy Charges Dismissed with HSLDA’s Intervention

When homeschooling mother Michelle Emily Shreffler (name changed to protect privacy) received two court summons for criminal charges of truancy and failure to appear, she called Home School Legal Defense Association. The Shrefflers withdrew their son from public school last year to begin homeschooling. At the beginning of this school year they spoke to the school secretary who assured them they were operating within the law.

Unknown to the Shrefflers, the central school district office had made a mistake and classified their son Carson as “truant.” The prosecutor sent a summons to Mrs. Shreffler charging her with truancy, but he sent it to the wrong address. Mrs. Shreffler did not attend the hearing because she never received the summons; consequently, she was also charged with “failure to appear.”

Because the Shrefflers were homeschooling within their legal rights, HSLDA sought to dismiss the case, and our local Texas counsel, Tom Sanders, represented Mrs. Shreffler at her initial hearing. HSLDA provided proof to the court that the summons had been sent to the wrong address. We also demonstrated that the Shrefflers’ son Carson was not truant because he was being homeschooled in accordance with Texas state law, under which homeschools operate as private schools. Despite the proof offered, the court refused to dismiss either of the charges and set a trial date.

Meanwhile, the school district discovered that it had mistakenly classified Carson as truant, and it asked the prosecutor to drop the case. The court finally dismissed the case less than two weeks before the trial, just in time for Thanksgiving. Mr. Sanders credits “a praying father,” Mr. Shreffler, as the impetus behind the outcome.

“HSLDA is proud to be on the front lines defending homeschoolers against prosecution like that experienced by the Shrefflers,” commented HSLDA Staff Attorney Darren Jones.