Originally Sent: 8/22/2014
|From the HSLDA e-lert service|
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McIntyre Case Hasn’t
Deputy General Counsel Jim Mason is the director of HSLDA’s litigation team. He and his wife homeschool.
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Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:
Though a recent Texas appeals court decision in favor of certain public school personnel did yield some discouraging results, the favorable legal climate for homeschooling in the state has not changed.
On August 6, 2014, the Court of Appeals of Texas, El Paso, held that Texas school district personnel were entitled to qualified immunity from claims that their truancy investigation violated the federal constitutional rights of a homeschooling family, Michael and Laura McIntyre.
The case began in 2006, when Michael’s parents complained to an attendance officer that Michael and his wife were not adequately teaching their children. The complaints appear to have arisen out of a contentious dispute about a family business.
An HSLDA attorney, the late Chris Klicka, wrote two letters to the attendance officer to assure him that the family was providing education in accordance with Texas law. But the attendance officer charged them with “failure to provide homeschool verification documentation.” HSLDA referred the family to a Texas lawyer to defend them against the charges, which were eventually dismissed.
Unbeknownst to HSLDA, however, Michael and Laura’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against three family members, the school district, and several school employees. It appeared to Michael and his wife that the school employees were improperly colluding with the grandparents rather than simply performing their official duties. The trial court denied the school district’s motion for summary judgment and held that the school district should go to trial on the McIntyreâ€™s claims.
The school district appealed before the trial and the appeal was argued in 2011. The family’s lawyers did not tell HSLDA about the case, so HSLDA did not provide a friend-of-the-court brief to the appellate court.
As is often the case in appellate decisions, there is much more to the story than the opinion reveals. Even though the appellate court ruled in favor of the school district, it appears that the district’s personnel pursued a more aggressive investigation than is usual, possibly due to the input of family members who disapproved of homeschooling, and because of the business dispute involving millions of dollars.
It is easy to second-guess a litigation strategy after it doesn’t work out, but it must be remembered that the trial judge ruled in favor of the homeschooling family. Please pray for the McIntyres as they and their lawyers consider asking the Supreme Court of Texas to review the case.
Free to Homeschool
While the appeals court decision contains some discouraging passages, it does not change the law of homeschooling in Texas. In 1994, the Supreme Court of Texas declared in the Leeper case that parents may legally homeschool their children as bona fide private schools.
In 1995, the Commissioner of Education wrote that, “a written statement of assurance, provided by the parents to the school district, meets the requirements of Leeper and verifies compliance with compulsory attendance laws.” Every commissioner since has reaffirmed that official position. The new case in El Paso does not change that policy.
As a result of the Leeper decision, homeschools do not have to initiate contact with a school district, submit to home visits, have curriculum approved, or have any specific teacher certification. Homeschools need only have a written curriculum, conduct the school in a bona fide manner, and teach math, reading, spelling, grammar, and good citizenship.
And if a school official ever asks about your homeschool, a statement of assurance from the parents will almost always settle the matter. But if your homeschool is ever challenged you should call HSLDA, and we will assist you in getting the matter resolved. You may read the El Paso opinion here.
HSLDA Senior Counsel
P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you. Thank you for all you do for freedom! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>
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