May 20, 2005

Indiana: Social worker violates state law

The last person HSLDA member Mrs. Dunbar [not her real name] expected to see when she answered the door on the evening of May 3, 2005 was a social worker investigating allegations of educational neglect and abuse. The social worker met her greeting with a demand to allow him entrance to her home, insisting that she grant him private interviews with each of her homeschooled children.

Surprised by the allegations, and not wanting to allow the social worker into her home, Mrs. Dunbar refused his demand for entrance and interviews and called HSLDA for help when the social worker summoned four police officers and his supervisor to her door. HSLDA Attorney Scott Woodruff advised them of their constitutional right to bar the social workers and police from their home since they did not have a warrant. He also counseled them to allow the social workers to see that the children were well cared for and healthy.

Once the social workers saw for themselves that the children were okay, they decided to leave. As they were leaving, they handed Mrs. Dunbar a pink 3x5 card notifying them that their children were being taken into DYFS custody and directing them to be in court two days later.

The social workers left, however—without taking the children!

"No social worker has the power to simply cite parents into court for not allowing them into their home," Litigation Attorney James R. Mason, III stated. "There was no emergency here, and even though they claimed custody, the social workers did not take custody, and under the circumstances, could not have legally done so."

The card the Dunbars received is for use in cases where a social worker must take a child into physical custody under emergency circumstances. It was never intended for use as a means of citing people into court, as the social workers in this case used it. It is, in fact, a violation of both Indiana law and Constitutional due process for social workers to use the card for that purpose. The Dunbars were left with absolutely no idea of why they had been called into court, and could therefore form no defense to answer the social workers.

On May 5, 2005, Attorney Mason filed a motion to dismiss in the juvenile court, arguing that the procedure followed by the social worker was not only contrary to Indiana law, but that it was also in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The initial hearing was continued and the social workers were provided with ample evidence to demonstrate that the Dunbars' homeschooling program is in full compliance with Indiana law.

A week later, thanks to the groundwork in HSLDA's motion to dismiss, the matter was dismissed in its entirety, and the allegations were declared to be unfounded.