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November 26, 2013

On the Case:

News Flash to Florida Court: Homeschoolers Are Socialized!

Staff Attorney Darren Jones is a member of HSLDA’s litigation team, which helps homeschool families who are facing legal challenges. He and his wife homeschool.

Home School Legal Defense Association recently filed a friend of the court (amicus curiae) brief with the Florida Third District Court of Appeal explaining the broad success of homeschooling, demonstrated not only through academic studies but also in social engagement.

Why an Amicus Brief?

In our fight to preserve and expand homeschool freedom, HSLDA sometimes files amicus briefs in cases on appeal in which we have not represented the family. Our latest amicus brief was filed where a family court judge shocked a longtime homeschooling mother at a hearing on visitation by ordering her children to immediately begin attending public school.

HSLDA does not represent families in custody cases. But when the mother’s lawyer contacted us and explained the case details, we knew that the Court of Appeal could benefit from an outside look at the case—an amicus brief.

The Backstory

The mother and father have been fighting over visitation for years, and a scheduled hearing last summer seemed to be just the latest skirmish in the war. A court-appointed psychologist testified that the children were all doing well academically. But at the hearing, the guardian ad litem—appointed by the court to represent the children’s best interest—testified that her “gut reaction” was that the children should be in public school for socialization. The guardian also used the mother’s “ultra Catholic” beliefs as evidence against homeschooling, even though the divorce agreement had mandated that the children be raised Catholic.

Without warning, the judge used the hearing not just to rule on the visitation schedule, but also to order the kids into public school, even though the father had not made education an issue before the hearing. The judge lectured the mother, “When are they going to socialize? Is homeschool going to continue through college and/or professional schooling? At which point are these children going to interact with other children, and isn’t that in their best interest?” With that, the judge changed a long-standing court order permitting homeschooling and ordered the children into the local school.

Our Brief

HSLDA filed a brief arguing that the family should be allowed to continue homeschooling. In our amicus brief, we contended that if the mother had received warning that homeschooling would be at issue, she could have presented a substantial body of evidence that homeschoolers are well-socialized. We pointed to a number of academic studies that show homeschool graduates to be successful college students and adults.

“It is truly unfortunate that after decades of homeschooling parents are still fighting a battle against ignorance and ‘What about socialization?’ ” said Jim Mason, HSLDA’s litigation counsel. “We see this as an excellent opportunity to educate judges in Florida about homeschooling success.”

We invite you to join HSLDA’s mission to the homeschool community, educating courts and keeping homeschooling free. If you aren’t yet a member, join now! Additionally, you can give a tax-free donation to the Homeschool Freedom Fund to support our legal work on behalf of homeschool families.