Since When is Moving a Federal Offense?
by Tj Schmidt • February 5, 2019
Imagine being told that you cannot move your family to another state until you prove to your old school district just where you are moving to—and demonstrate that you are not engaged in child trafficking.
This situation was exactly what a family who was moving from Ohio to Oklahoma found themselves dealing with. Thankfully, they were also members of Home School Legal Defense Association.
As the date approached for them to depart for Oklahoma, the family notified the Greater Ohio Virtual School that they needed to withdraw their child. The family also informed the school that they would be homeschooling in their new state.
Bizarrely, school officials refused to withdraw the child, and threatened to report the family to child protective services (CPS) if they did not give them their new address. They also insisted that the family provide various documentation to confirm their plans to relocate to Oklahoma and homeschool.
Burden of Proof
Since Oklahoma protects the right of parents to provide “other means of education” and does not require homeschool families to notify their local school district when educating their children at home, the family had no easy way to supply the proof that the Greater Ohio Virtual School was demanding. Alarmed by the threat of being reported to CPS, the family contacted HSLDA for help.
Once I became aware of this situation, I immediately contacted local school officials in Ohio on behalf of our member. After asking the school officials why they would not withdraw the family’s child and let them move to Oklahoma, I was surprised by their answer.
I was informed that the school was following “federal child trafficking laws.” The school official went on to say that they were simply trying to make sure that the child was safe, and that the family should have no objection to what they had requested.
Skeptical that there was some law that I, and all of the HSLDA legal department, had missed, I asked for the relevant federal code provision. The school official replied that he was not an attorney and didn’t know the actual code section. But he was certain that he was citing a federal law mandate.
A quick search of the legal databases confirmed that none of the school’s demands related to any federal or state law. While there are federal laws on human trafficking and initiatives to help school officials identify possible warning signs of child trafficking, none of them involve a family moving from one state to another for reasons related to work or family. While the official’s desire to be vigilant is understandable, it ended up being equivalent to harassment.
I then wrote an email to the school district explaining there was nothing under state or federal law to justify their behavior. I cautioned them against violating our family’s constitutional rights to homeschool their child in peace and demanded that they withdraw their child from the school. Shortly afterwards, they sent me a reply confirming that they had done so.