February 24, 2003

Arkansas Court Denies Social Workers' Attempt to Search Home

On February 20, 2003, Home School Legal Defense Association won a significant victory when a Circuit Court in Arkansas dismissed a social services case against the Hudson family, who had been accused of environmental and educational neglect.

The Hudsons, who are members of HSLDA, live in a house with a home business at the front. On January 9, 2003, Department of Human Services (DHS) social workers received an anonymous report alleging that the Hudsons' home had unsanitary conditions and that the children were not in public school.

At 10:30 A.M. on January 10, 2003, two social workers went to the home. When no one answered the front door, the social workers noticed a sign near the front door that had a telephone number on it. They called the number and spoke with Mrs. Hudson, who reported that she would be home around noon.

In an attempt to get more information before the Hudsons got home, one social worker walked around to the back of the house and peered through private windows. When she peeped in the kitchen door, she observed some clutter, including breakfast dishes still on the table, and a cat lying on top of clean laundry.

Later that day the social workers returned to the home and demanded to search the house and to talk to the children without the parents being present. Mrs. Hudson invited the two social workers into the front room of the residence but respectfully declined access to the rest of the home. She did allow them to see all of the children, but because she wanted to protect her children from the trauma of being interrogated by strangers, she decided not to let the social workers talk to them out of her presence.

After the social workers left, threatening another visit, the Hudsons called HSLDA. We advised them to provide proof to DHS that they were legally homeschooling. We quickly arranged for a third party to inspect the home and report to DHS that the house did not present a health or safety risk.

Unsatisfied with these explanations, DHS went to juvenile court on January 17 for an order forcing the Hudsons to allow the Department to search their home and to seize their children for interviews outside the parents' presence. The Hudson family received no notice nor had any opportunity to be heard. Hearing only the social workers' side of the story, the juvenile court ordered the Hudsons to cooperate.

With the help of David Hogue, a local attorney connected with Alliance Defense Fund, HSLDA moved to stay the court's order. HSLDA submitted a 15 page memo of constitutional law, defending the family's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and arguing that the Department lacked any credible evidence to invade the Hudsons' privacy, since the only evidence was based on an anonymous tip and the innocent clutter seen by a prying social worker. The judge granted our motion to stay and scheduled a hearing for February 20 to decide whether DHS could compel the search and interview.

At the February 20 hearing, DHS admitted that it had no other evidence. Because of this the entire investigation was dismissed.

For more information visit:
Arkansas Family's Right to Privacy Threatened by Investigation