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March 10, 2014

Attorney General Dismisses Case against Homeschooler

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dee Black assists members with questions and issues regarding Mississippi homeschool law. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

After being investigated by Harrison County Family and Children Services for the past four months, a Home School Legal Defense Association member finally received word last week that the educational neglect case against her was being dismissed.

The Gulfport family’s ordeal began last October when a social worker came to the home and sought proof that the 12-year-old son was in compliance with Mississippi’s compulsory attendance law. The mother provided the social worker with a copy of the certificate of enrollment in a home instruction program that she had filed with the school attendance officer at the beginning of the school year as required by law. When the social worker later asked for additional proof, the parent furnished her with a Verification of Compliance from the Mississippi Department of Education signed by the attendance officer stating that the child was in compliance with state law as a student in a “legitimate home instruction program.” The mother also provided the investigator with curriculum information and grades for courses for the previous and current school years. Still this was not enough for the social worker to close the investigation. Instead, the social worker insisted on receiving additional proof of educational progress to address an allegation that the child’s needs were not being met. When the mother balked at providing additional information, the social worker threatened court proceedings against her. That’s when HSLDA got involved. What we did not know at the time was that the social worker had already initiated an action for educational neglect, but the parent had not been served with any summons to appear in court.

HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black sent a letter to the social worker and informed her of the legal requirements for homeschooling in Mississippi and of the fact that the parent was in full compliance with them. Black pointed out that the child’s mother had provided more information than was either required by law or necessary to close the investigation. After another month went by with no response from the social worker, Black received a telephone call from an attorney with the Office of the Attorney General, advising him that after reviewing the contents of his letter, the case against the homeschooling mother was being dismissed.

What this case demonstrates is that even though a homeschooling family may be fully obeying the law, a report to social services can result in a prolonged and stressful investigation based on false allegations. Although Mississippi has one of the most favorable homeschooling laws in the nation, this parent discovered that membership in HSLDA was still important for protection of her rights.

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