September 5, 2001

Invasion of a Missouri Family's Home Averted

In Lebanon, Missouri, late in the morning of August 2, the Steve B family was suddenly confronted by five law enforcement officials at the entrance to their property. Mr. B called Home School Legal Defense Association for help-fast. Accompanying the county sheriff were two social workers from the Missouri Family Services Division and two criminal investigators, also from the Family Services Division. All five were prepared to enter the home, separate the children and interrogate them privately, and inspect the premises.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka immediately called the sheriff on his cell phone. His first goal was to convince the sheriff that he had no probable cause to enter the premises. By the end of their conversation, the sheriff agreed that he was there to protect the family's rights. Chris then turned his attention to the criminal investigators and social workers. They were insistent that they be allowed into the family's home to investigate and, standing in the pouring rain, debated the matter with Attorney Klicka via telephone for over an hour. During the course of the conversation, Chris learned that the officials were responding to allegations of social isolation due to home schooling, emotional abuse, and physical abuse-including the claim that the children were chained to chairs and beaten over 250 times as a form of discipline.

Attorney Klicka asked the family simply to go out into their yard and greet the law enforcement officials, allowing them to see that the children were not in any immediate danger. He was then able to convince the officials to leave, promising that additional evidence supporting the family's innocence would be submitted.

Under the advisement of HSLDA, the family obtained a statement from their personal physician indicating that the children were in good health and also a statement from a pastor who visited their home, interviewed the children, and determined that the children were being well cared for.

In the meantime, the family received a letter from a deputy juvenile officer requesting that they bring their children to the courthouse to be interviewed. Although the letter indicated this conference was voluntary, it threatened that "failure to attend may result in a petition being filed with the court." Attorney Klicka negotiated with the deputy juvenile officer and faxed her the statements from the doctor and pastor and other individuals who had vouched for the family, convincing her that there was no probable cause to seek a court order.

After lengthy negotiations with the social worker, she backed off from further demands to see the children. Within the next few weeks, the family received a letter from the Family Services Division indicating that the report was "unsubstantiated," and the case was closed on August 20. The family has been allowed to peacefully continue their home schooling.