March 17, 2003

Farris Presents Case to Vermont Justices

On March 13, 2003, Michael P. Farris, General Counsel of Home School Legal Defense Association, argued before the Vermont Supreme Court that the Vermont Department of Education was fighting to expand its jurisdiction beyond what the Legislature had determined.

The issue at stake in this case centered on what the Vermont Legislature meant by "independent professional evidence" of whether a child has a handicap. Farris argued that the Legislature had intended to "trust the professional" on this issue and that parents only need to submit a simple statement by the professional that the child does not have a handicap. The Department has required the data that the professional used to make this determination, thus allowing the Department to "second guess" the professional's diagnosis.

"This may seem like a small issue, but we are on opposite sides of the continental divide," said Farris. "We believe that the Department must be held strictly to what the Legislature's words and intent were in passing the homeschool law. The Department believes that it has the right to go beyond those words. To allow the Department to review the professional's data converts Vermont's homeschool statute from an expedited notice-and-enrollment statute to one where the Department exercises approval authority."

Each year, the Vermont Supreme Court holds oral arguments for a few selected cases at the Vermont Law School, and the justices had chosen this case for their special session. However, interested homeschoolers showed up in droves and far outnumbered the law students, according to James R. Mason, Litigation Attorney for HSLDA, who assisted Farris in preparing for his presentation.

There is no deadline by which the Vermont Supreme Court must decide this case. Please continue praying for protection from the Department's attempt to go beyond the limits of the homeschool law.

More information:
Farris to Argue Before Vermont Supreme Court