May 11, 2005

Double Investigation Trouble for Homeschool Family

The Department of Social Services received a report that a daughter of a St. Louis-area family was truant. A social worker came to the family home and wanted to conduct a "family assessment." The family wisely refused to participate, but allowed the social worker to see the child.

The social worker closed her investigation but then sent the case to the local juvenile office. The juvenile officer opened her own investigation. She sent a letter warning the family to attend a scheduled "informal adjustment conference" or risk being taken to court. This threat seemed all the more credible because the letter was typed in a format that strongly resembles documents that are actually filed in court. The family asked HSLDA for help.

We examined the family's log and found that it was being maintained properly. We sent a copy of the log to the juvenile officer, explained that a log is a defense to a claim of truancy, and asked her to close her file.

The juvenile officer acknowledged that the log established that the family was homeschooling legally and said she would drop the matter.

Both investigations may have been the result of misidentification. The school apparently knew the girl by her first name, but when withdrawing her from public school the parents sent a notice using her middle name. To prevent a repetition of this problem, we advised the family to send a new notice using the daughter's first name. A notice is not mandatory, but advisable when withdrawing a child from public school.

Recently, we have seen an unprecedented number of situations where a social worker investigates, then hands off the file to a juvenile officer to do another investigation. This is unjust and uncalled for, and we are working to correct this practice.