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Vol. XXII
No. 3
Cover
May/June
2006

In This Issue

SPECIALFEATURES
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ANDTHEREST

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Litigation Summaries
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GEORGIA

HSLDA Challenges Unconstitutional Statute

Case: In the Matter of the P Children
Filed: 1-31-06

In January 2006, a Home School Legal Defense Association member in the midst of divorce proceedings was blindsided when her estranged in-laws filed a deprivation petition—even though the educational neglect allegations contained in the petition had already been investigated and declared unfounded by the local social services agency in 2005.

Under Georgia law, “any person” who believes that a child is abused or neglected may file a petition in juvenile court asking for a declaration of abuse or neglect. Thus, a family may find themselves in court just because of the suspicions of one person unconnected with social services or law enforcement. This law only exacerbates the normal problems inherent in divorce proceedings and custody battles.

Our member, Mrs. Parke,* has been homeschooling her three children in full compliance with Georgia homeschooling law. Under the Georgia statute, her in-laws were allowed to file a private deprivation suit based on no evidence at all!

“This isn’t the first time we’ve faced this problem with the Georgia reporting law,” says HSLDA Litigation Attorney James Mason. “This type of “private prosecuting attorney’ statute leaves everyone in a family quarrel at risk.”

As we defend Mrs. Parke against the allegations of educational neglect, HSLDA is also challenging the constitutionality of the Georgia statute.

PENNSYLVANIA

Positive Precedent Building in IDEA Cases

Case: Oley Valley School District v. L Family
Filed: 12-9-05

On the heels of our Missouri victory in Fitzgerald v. Camdenton R-III School District et al. HSLDA has successfully defended a Pennsylvania member family facing a similar legal challenge.

Mr. and Mrs. Leo* had sent their son, Nolan, to several different public and private schools before finally deciding to homeschool him. After they submitted Pennsylvania's required homeschool affidavit to Oley Valley School District, the district contacted them with a request to assess Nolan to see if he was eligible to receive special education services.

When the Leos declined the evaluation, the request turned into a demand, and the district called for a hearing before an administrative hearing officer to determine whether Nolan should be evaluated. The Leos then contacted HSLDA for assistance.

It became apparent that the reason for the district’s persistence was a fear that the Leos might sue them for reimbursement for private special education services. By this time, however, Mr. and Mrs. Leo wanted absolutely no further involvement with the public school. They simply wanted their parental right to refuse the evaluation to be recognized.

Citing a brief by the U.S. Justice Department (submitted in Fitzgerald v. Camdenton), which argued that a parent has the right to refuse an IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) evaluation, HSLDA Litigation Attorney James Mason convinced the district to drop its demand for an assessment. The hearing officer dismissed the case on January 31, 2006. Mr. and Mrs. Leo are now free to homeschool Nolan without the district’s interference.

HSLDA is still awaiting a decision by the New York State Review Officer in a third IDEA case, D Family v. Livonia Central School District. (See cover story for more information on the D family.

* Name changed to protect family’s privacy.