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January 3, 2006

Illinois Homeschool Family Dragged Into Court

The Walters family in Joliet, Illinois, was contacted in November about their homeschool. In Illinois, homeschoolers only need to teach the same branches of instruction in the English language that are being taught in public schools. Homeschools in Illinois have been treated as private schools ever since an important state Supreme Court case from 1950.

Nonetheless, certain school districts tend to demand more of homeschoolers than is actually required by law. The Walters family is no exception. The Will County Regional Superintendent's Office sent a truant officer to contact the family. The truant officer made a phone call to the family asserting that their children were truant. HSLDA immediately wrote a letter to the school district explaining that the family was homeschooling in full compliance of the law.

The truant officer was not satisfied. He decided to send the family's information to the local prosecutor, who subsequently charged the family with truancy. The charges stated that one of their four children was "a chronic truant" and "in need of supervision." There was very short notice for the case, which was scheduled for the middle of the holiday season.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Chris Klicka researched the state code and discovered that the truant officer had violated a statute requiring written notice of truancy before actual charges could be filed. The truant officer never provided written notice to the family. Klicka explained the notice problem to the father and counseled him to ask the judge for a continuance until HSLDA could have a local attorney present.

The judge refused. As far as he was concerned, this child needed to be in school, no matter what. He did not want to see or hear anything about homeschooling, and cut the father off when he was trying to ask for a continuance. The judge stated that the child needed to be in school the next day.

Attorney Klicka talked with Mrs. Walters and counseled her to go to the school district the next day, where she was able to talk to the regional superintendent. Upon seeing that she had a teaching certificate, lesson plans and plenty of books, the superintendent was impressed. Then when he heard that his truant officer did not file proper notice that would have avoided this whole mess, he was not very happy. The mother persuaded the superintendent to contact the state's attorney and to withdraw the petition.

We praise the Lord for this outcome and are glad that the family can continue homeschooling uninterrupted. We expect the whole case to be dropped soon.