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March 6, 2006

Truancy Officer Attempts Unlawful Inspection

One day, while going about their usual homeschooling in Traverse City, the Night* family was surprised to find a truant officer at their door. Apparently, the officer had been sent by the county prosecutor to ascertain whether the family's curriculum was "age-appropriate" for their seven children.

Not knowing exactly what to do, the family called Home School Legal Defense Association while the officer was still at the door. HSLDA Attorney Scott Somerville talked with the officer and told her that inspecting the curriculum of homeschoolers in Michigan was completely outside of her authority.

The family was homeschooling their children in compliance with the law. No truancy charges had been filed against them and curriculum does not need to be approved in Michigan.

The truancy officer left the family without inspecting their curriculum after talking with Mr. Somerville. But she said that truancy officers were going to "all the homeschoolers Traverse City to inspect curriculum."

HSLDA senior counsel Chris Klicka sent a letter to the prosecutor who ordered the truancy officer to conduct the inspection. The letter requested that county officials cease their harassment of these Traverse City homeschoolers.

Mr. Klicka wrote: "Such action amounts to harassment. These visits by a truant officer are intimidating and unnecessary, treating homeschoolers as 'a suspect class.' In other words, just because they homeschool they are considered guilty of violating the compulsory attendance law, unless they prove themselves innocent."

Klicka heard back from the prosecutor who indicated the truant officer "misspoke or was misunderstood." The prosecutor vehemently denied any "witch hunt." Klicka explained that no truancy charges could be brought unless she had probable cause to believe the family was not educating their children. The prosecutor, after initially threatening to bring charges, never did.

The Night family has not had any further contact with the truancy officer or the prosecutor.

* Not their real name