October 30, 2008

Social Worker Investigates Family for Educational Neglect

In mid-October, a social worker from the Benton County Department of Human Services (DHS) went to the home of a family residing in Lowell (Benton County) and advised the mother that DHS had received a report that the family was neglecting the education of their younger daughter. The mother permitted the social worker to enter her home to discuss the matter and review materials indicating that the family was in full compliance with Arkansas’ homeschooling law. After examining the notice of intent which the parents had filed with the local school district and obtaining information from the mother about her children’s curriculum, the social worker interviewed both daughters, even though the report of educational neglect related only to the younger daughter. The social worker then left the premises but indicated that he intended to return at a later time to interview the father.

After her unpleasant experience with the social worker, the frightened mother contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for advice. HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black intervened on behalf of the family by writing the social worker a letter, reiterating that the family was meeting all legal requirements for homeschooling their children. Black stated that the information already provided to DHS by the mother was more than sufficient for DHS to determine that these parents were not neglecting the education of their children. As a result, the family received no further contact from the social worker.

It is always a judgment call in deciding to what extent a family should cooperate with the requests of a social worker during an investigation. Sometimes a measure of cooperation will result in a quick end of the investigation, while at other times it may lead to more legal problems for the family. For this reason, HSLDA member families are encouraged to contact us as soon as they are contacted by state officials seeking to investigate their family.

HSLDA Social Services Contact Policy

We desire to advise our members in every contact with a social worker and/or police officer in investigations resulting from allegations of abuse or neglect. If homeschooling is an issue, we will represent our member families until the issue is resolved. On Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure issues, HSLDA will advise our members whenever the privacy of their home is violated by forced or coerced entry for the purpose of an unsubstantiated investigation. HSLDA membership benefits do not extend to court actions resulting from non-homeschooling matters. However, in circumstances where there is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, HSLDA may, as we have done in the past, choose to take the case in an effort to establish legal precedent.