The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXV
No. 6
Cover
November/December
2009

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CALIFORNIA

Los Angeles Daytime Curfew Citation Dismissed

Case: County of LA v. S Family
Filed: June 5, 2009

by James R. Mason

On June 5, homeschooled teenagers Tom and Abigail Spencer (names changed to protect privacy) took the bus from their home to a local community college to sign up for classes. As they walked from the bus stop to the entrance of the college, a Los Angeles Police Department officer drove up and asked them what they were doing. Tom explained that they were homeschooled and that their school was not in session that day. He explained that they were using the time to enroll in college classes and pointed to the community college behind him.

The officer nevertheless ordered them into his patrol car and cited them for violating Los Angeles’s daytime curfew ordinance. He said they had to obey the ordinance even though they were homeschooled because L.A. public schools were still in session that day. He transported them to a receiving center where other children were being processed that day as part of a planned “truancy sweep.” The Spencer teenagers were held at the center until their mother could pick them up later in the day. Since the Spencers were Home School Legal Defense Association members, they immediately contacted our legal department for assistance.

HSLDA Senior Counsel James R. Mason filed a motion to dismiss the citation, which was granted at Tom and Abigail’s initial court appearance.

“Homeschoolers in California are not required to follow the public school schedule and should not be cited for daytime curfew violations,” said Mason.

After the citation was dismissed, Mr. and Mrs. Spencer wrote:

We would like to thank you for the time and effort you put into getting the truancy charges against our son and daughter dismissed.

I would also like to thank you for your reassurance that HSLDA would not give up, no matter how far the case may have gone.

We appreciate all that you and everyone at HSLDA does.

HSLDA is looking into ways to prevent the Los Angeles daytime curfew ordinance from affecting homeschoolers in the future.

LOUISIANA

District Refuses to Accept Doctor’s Excuses

Case: In re: J Family
Filed: March 4, 2009

by Nicholas Bolzman

Last March, after a longstanding disagreement with the local public school, Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson (names changed to protect privacy) withdrew their son James in order to homeschool him. While in school, James had been missing about 20 days per year due to various medical conditions, yet was not falling behind academically. When the school refused to provide the doctor-recommended home bound services, Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson decided that it would be best if they began to homeschool.

Within days of withdrawing James, the Jeffersons were served with truancy charges. The Jeffersons turned to HSLDA for help.

The case very quickly turned into more than just a discussion of truancy. The school continued to claim that James had not been missing school for medical reasons and even went so far as to deny the existence of James’ diagnoses and allege the falsification of doctor’s excuses. The school also claimed that James’ absences had led to him falling behind academically, despite the evidence to the contrary. It quickly became evident that the issue here was not legal, but personal. (In an ironic twist, one school official told HSLDA’s local attorney that the court should rule that the child be homeschooled.)

When the district attorney finally realized that the case was based on personal dislike of the family and not on a solid legal foundation, she agreed to dismiss the case. The Jeffersons are now free to homeschool in peace.

WYOMING

Mom’s Listing on Abuse Registry “A Mistake”

Case: In re: KJ
Filed: June 22, 2009

by Darren A. Jones

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 had already investigated and found her guilty. She was charged with educational neglect of her daughter, Katie—who wasn’t even of compulsory attendance age.

Janice and her daughter had recently moved away from Cheyenne, and when she returned 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 HSLDA 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,” says Jones. “However, we were glad that we could assist Janice in getting off the registry so quickly.”

Pending Cases

AL B Family v. Social Security Administration

AZ Loudermilk Family v. Administration for Children, Youth and Families

CA L Family v. Social Security Administration

CA M Family v. County of San Bernardino

DC In re: DP

GA In re: JM

IN S Family v. Social Security Administration

NJ In re: M

NM In re: BW

NY In re: JT

PA Newborn v. Franklin Regional School District

SC Barnwell School District v. T Family

TX K Family v. Social Security Administration

VA B Family v. Social Security Administration

WA F Family v. Department of Veterans Affairs

WA H Family v. Social Security Administration


About the author

Nicholas Bolzman is a litigation assistant at HSLDA.