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January 20, 2006

Michigan Homeschooler with Special Needs Charged with Truancy

For the last three years the Johnson family has been teaching their only child at home, because of his special needs. The son had great difficulty reading and his mother was able to help him catch up.

The family decided to enroll him in public school during the 2004-05 school year in order to get additional special-needs services. They planned to resume homeschooling in the near future.

Then, around Christmas, Monroe County school officials charged the mother with causing the truancy of her child. There were no further explanations. Apparently, a truant officer in the area wanted to teach the family a lesson. Officials supposedly had evidence that the family did not homeschool their child the previous year and were charging them with truancy for the 2004-05 school year.

In 20 years with the Home School Legal Defense Association, Senior Counsel Chris Klicka had never encountered a case where a family who had their child in public school was charged with truancy for the previous year of homeschooling.

These charges were brought against the family even though the Monroe County Independent School District Multi-Disciplinarian Evaluation Team determined that, because of the son's various handicaps, he was in need of special services. The team determined that "the discrepancies were not due to lack of instruction in reading or math or English proficiency."

In other words, the child was behind academically in some areas because of his special needs, not because of neglect by his mother or his having been homeschooled. On the contrary, the principal of the public school which the child is now attending admitted to the good work the mother had done at home.

Klicka contacted the prosecutor and provided documentation from various experts of the thorough education that the mother had provided the child. Upon faxing the information, along with evidence of how the mother complied with Michigan homeschool law, he quickly received a call back.

The prosecutor cheerfully dismissed the case and the hearing was cancelled.