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February 24, 2006

The Case of the Missing School Textbooks

The McAuliffes started homeschooling in the 2005-06 school year. About Christmas time, the family received a court summons from the public school district.

They were ordered to appear before a judge for criminal truancy charges. The family contacted the Home School Legal Defense Association, and HSLDA assigned the case to Texas Counsel, Tom Sanders, to intervene on behalf of the family.

Attorney Sanders attended the January 4 hearing and argued in defense of the family. He explained Texas homeschool law to the judge and showed that the family was schooling in compliance with the law. As a result, the judge agreed to dismiss the criminal charges provided the family formally file a withdrawal form with the school.

Mr. McAuliffe went to the school that same day to sign a withdrawal form even though he had verbally informed officials that he intended to homeschool.

However, the public school official refused to accept the withdrawal. This meant the case would not be dismissed. Mr. McAuliffe immediately called attorney Sanders.

After much discussion with the Anderson-Shiro Consolidated Independent School District, Sanders finally discovered the real reason why school officials refused to drop the truancy charges. The family had been accused of criminal truancy because the school was missing three textbooks, and officials believed that the family had stolen the books.

Missing textbooks is not proper grounds for a charge of truancy. So Sanders negotiated with the school, showing the ridiculousness of the charge and telling them that the family would reimburse the school for the books if they were not returned at the end of the school year. Anderson-Shiro CISD finally agreed to dismiss the truancy charge against the McAuliffes.

The missing books were eventually found in a public school locker thereby vindicating the innocence of the McAuliffe family.