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April 25, 2017

Ohio Still Blames Mom for Official’s Mistake

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The case for overturning Valerie Bradley’s criminal conviction gained strength and clarity with HSLDA’s latest court filing.

Mrs. Bradley is a homeschooling mom who was originally sentenced to 180 days in jail over what the court described as a “technical mistake” involving paperwork and deadlines. Her conviction was later changed to a supposedly more lenient charge: failing to send her son to school.

After several extensions, attorneys for the state of Ohio responded to HSLDA’s appeal on behalf of Mrs. Bradley. But the state’s brief reveals significant misunderstandings about both the facts of the case and Ohio’s homeschool law.

Last week, we filed a reply  outlining the errors in the state’s case. Here are two of the more egregious mistakes:

“Requests” aren’t “Deadlines”

The state’s central argument is that Mrs. Bradley missed a “deadline” because she submitted her homeschool paperwork after August 1. But Ohio’s homeschool statute doesn’t include any deadlines for submitting paperwork to school officials. Nor do Ohio’s homeschool regulations.

In fact, the regulations say that if school officials believe homeschool paperwork is “incomplete,” they must give parents at least 14 days to supply the missing information.

The state also insists that school officials sent Mrs. Bradley a letter in May 2015 that set an August 1 deadline for her homeschool paperwork. But the letter does no such thing.

Instead of demanding that paperwork be submitted by August 1 (with an accompanying statement of possible legal consequences), the official’s letter merely says: “It is requested that you return the completed form to my office by August 1, 2015.” A “request” isn’t a “deadline.”

Testing Takes Time

The state’s most curious argument is that Mrs. Bradley should have arranged to have her son tested privately instead of through the school district. Had she done so, the state says, school officials would have gotten the results sooner.

That argument would be more convincing if Mrs. Bradley hadn’t arranged for her son to be privately tested and expedited that private test. What the state fails to grasp is that standardized testing—even private standardized testing—takes time.

The publisher has to forward the test to the authorized administrator. The child has to take it, usually over several days. And completed tests have to be returned to the publisher for scoring before the final results can be forwarded back to the parent.

The great irony is that Mrs. Bradley followed the state’s suggestion and still managed to submit her son’s test results within the 14-day window. She shouldn’t be convicted of a crime because standardized testing takes time. But that’s the state’s position.

Setting the Record Straight

As we await oral argument before the Court of Appeals, we want to extend a special thank-you to all of the homeschooling families who have supported our important work in this case.

Although homeschooling has grown tremendously over the past three decades, Mrs. Bradley’s prosecution vividly illustrates that there are still government officials who misunderstand it. The only way to correct misinformation is to set the record straight, and we can only do that through your support of homeschooling families like the Bradleys.