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Family allowed to begin home schooling again
Filed: December 6, 1999, St. Louis County.
Nature of Case: St. Louis County Protective Services brought a petition alleging educational neglect of an 8 year-old child. The child has severe developmental problems, including the fact that he does not speak in complete sentences. Even though the parents were in compliance with the home school statute for 1999-2000, their failure to log 1000 hours for 1998-99 resulted in a finding of neglect. Educational psychologist Steven Duvall testified on behalf of the family that their current program is superior to what is customarily taught in the public schools and is meeting the special needs of the child, but the court was not interested. The fact that there were not 1000 hours of instruction in 1998-99 could not be overcome.
11-9-00 The trial court held that the family failed to meet the 1000-hour requirement and ordered the autistic 8-year-old to be tested. The parties worked out an agreement whereby the Bs agreed to place Joshua in a public school in exchange for minimal intrusion by DSS into the family's home.
8-7-01 The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.
10-4-01 The Court of Appeals denied our motion for rehearing and/or transfer to the Supreme Court of Missouri.
11-20-01 The Supreme Court of Missouri denied our appeal, bringing the first part of the case to a final conclusion.
8-20-02 The Family Court of St. Louis County, in a review hearing, approved home schooling for Joshua for the first school semester.
2-11-03 The Family Court retained supervision, but allowed Joshua to continue homeschooling for the rest of the year.
Status: The Court of Appeals' interpretation of "school term" for home school families stands:
Although "school term" is statutorily defined, the definition is not applicable in the home school context. … We hold that, in the context of a homeschool, a "school term" is a period not greater than twelve months during which instruction is regularly given to students.
"In the homeschool setting," held the Court of Appeals, "there is no logical reason to hold that the school term is restricted to a single [public] school year." Home schooling parents in Missouri, therefore, are free to set their own school "term." It may be twelve months or less, but no longer. Parents must offer 1000 hours of instruction within the school term they set.
A child is not subject to compulsory attendance unless he is age 7 at the beginning of his school term. If a parent determines their school term will begin September 1, and the child turns 7 on September 15, the child will not be of compulsory age until the following year. Parents have no legal duty to offer 1000 hours of instruction or keep any records until a child is age 7 at the beginning of his school term.
This court ruling gives Missouri home schoolers tremendous flexibility to adjust their home school term to best suit the needs of their children.
Last Updated: February 13, 2003.
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