April 2, 2002

Pennsylvania Drops Charges Against Mom

Home School Legal Defense Association has been representing Susan Oliver for almost a year in her fight to home school her special needs son. When the court ruled against her in June 2001, HSLDA appealed her case to the next level. Now the commonwealth prosecutor, realizing his weak case, has dismissed all charges.

Susan Oliver filed a complete notarized affidavit (as required by Pennsylvania law) at the same time she withdrew her son Marcus from the public school in May 2001. The day after her affidavit was received, a school district superintendent called Ms. Oliver to tell her that she had omitted a paragraph. He wanted her to include a statement reflecting the fact that her son had been identified as a child in need of special education services. He then told Ms. Oliver that she need only get the amended affidavit to him within the next week because he would be out of the office. She mailed it four days later on May 11. The official returned from vacation on May 15 and notified Ms. Oliver by letter dated May 16 that her documentation was complete. The public school principal, however, had already filed charges.

Despite the fact that Mrs. Oliver complied fully with state law and the school district's additional request, on June 13, 2001, the court found her guilty of violating compulsory school attendance. The court stated Ms. Oliver was in violation of the law from the time of the Marcus' withdrawal (May 5) until the amended affidavit was received by the school district (May 12). She was fined $125 for the violation.

While the appeal was pending, however, the commonwealth withdrew the charges, recognizing that the original complaint was, at most, based on technical violations caused by the miscommunication of school officials.

Click here for more information on this case see our Court Report story.