March 4, 2010
Homeschoolers Charged with Truancy

When a homeschooling family in Memphis received a notice from Shelby County Schools last November stating that their two children were “habitually and unlawfully absent from school,” they contacted their local public schools to determine the basis for such an accusation. Since their children were enrolled in the extension program of a local church-related school and had never been enrolled in public school, the public schools had no record of their absences. Assuming that the letters to them were an administrative error, the family made no further inquiry into the matter. Unfortunately, in the latter part of December, the parents were served with a summons to appear in juvenile court in January to answer the charges that their children had more than 70 unexcused absences from public school. At this point the family contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the county official who had first notified the family of the alleged unexcused absences of their children. Black explained that both children were enrolled in the extension program of a church-related school in Memphis, and he enclosed a verification of enrollment letter from the administrator of the church-related school. Both children had been enrolled in the school since August of the current school year.

After receiving the letter from HSLDA with the enclosed verification of enrollment, the county official immediately notified the juvenile court that the family was in compliance with Tennessee’s compulsory attendance requirements. As a result, the truancy charges were dropped, and the family did not have to appear in court.

HSLDA encourages our member families to contact us as soon as they receive any type of threatening correspondence from public school officials. Most of the time, the initiation of legal proceedings can be avoided if our attorneys are involved in the process from the beginning.