July 14, 2009

Mom’s Listing on Abuse Registry ‘A Mistake’

Janice Johnson (names changed to protect privacy) first found out that she was under investigation for educational neglect when she received a letter from the State of Wyoming Department of Family Services stating that they’d already investigated and found her guilty. She was charged with educational neglect of her daughter, Katie—who wasn’t even of compulsory school attendance age.

Janice and her daughter had recently moved away from Cheyenne, and when she went back about a month later to take care of some final business, she found that several letters had been delivered to their former residence. The first one was a letter from the department of family services dated May 19, informing her that there were allegations that she was educationally neglecting her daughter because Katie was not enrolled in school and the school district had no record of Katie being homeschooled. Also in the mailbox was a letter dated June 9, which informed Janice that the allegation was substantiated, and that her name would be added to the Wyoming Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.

Extremely upset that the department could find her guilty of educational neglect without even talking to her, much less verifying that her daughter was even required by law to be in school, Janice contacted Home School Legal Defense Association for assistance. HSLDA Staff Attorney Darren Jones immediately called the department to get her name removed from the central registry and to correct the finding to “unsubstantiated.” He mailed a copy of Katie’s birth certificate to the department to show that she would not be of compulsory school attendance age until September, 2009.

On July 1, the department responded, ruling that Janice had not violated “DFS Child Protection Policy on educational neglect” and enclosing “a copy of the Wyoming Statute [on compulsory attendance] which supersedes [the DFS] policy.” The department manager told Jones that the social worker had “made a mistake” in thinking that compulsory attendance age was 6 rather than 7, and Janice’s name was removed from the registry.

“It is troubling that a social worker would place a parent on the central registry as a child abuser without ever talking to the parent, seeing the child, or even verifying what the proper compulsory attendance age is,” said Jones. “However, we were glad that we could assist Janice in getting off the registry so quickly.”