CPS and Homeschooling Mom Agree: She’s Not a Criminal!
by Mike Donnelly • April 17, 2018
Acrimony fomented by a West Virginia public school teachers’ strike and pushback against pro-homeschool legislation appears to have affected how homeschooling families are treated on the local level.
Home School Legal Defense Association recently advocated on behalf of one of these families, who was harassed and then put through a Child Welfare Services investigation simply for following the legal requirements for homeschooling.
The incident began when the HSLDA members mailed a notice of intent to their county attendance officer (the local official who enforces compulsory school attendance laws).
The mom was announcing her intention to begin homeschooling, a decision she and her husband had made in part because some of their children were being bullied at school.
Getting it Wrong
The response she received was ill-informed and alarming.
The attendance officer berated the mom for mailing her notice of intent rather than hand-delivering it.
The official added: “I get to decide if you can homeschool, and I have to be sure you don’t have any case open with child protective services.”
The official was wrong. Though state law does require homeschool students to be assessed regularly and show acceptable progress, it does not give her the power to approve or disapprove of homeschool programs. But what made her behavior especially egregious is that it appeared to be based on her political views that hold homeschoolers in disdain.
In a recent Facebook post in support of the public school establishment not long after the teachers’ strike, the attendance officer had stated her conviction that 80% of homeschoolers “are drug addicts, have truancy charges, [engage in] childhood sex trafficking, etc.” She added that she and fellow supporters had attempted to sway pro-homeschool lobbyists and legislators into agreeing with this position, but that “they have no concept of what is really going on.”
This view, when considered in conjunction with the teachers’ union’s opposition to recent pro-homeschool bills, sadly illustrates that there is still a deep-rooted antipathy against homeschooling by the education establishment in some areas.
Offensive Views can Hurt
Of course, even public servants are entitled to their political views. The problem arises when those opinions are translated into attacks on the legal rights of homeschooling families.
Which is apparently what happened in this case.
The day after our member spoke with the attendance officer, CPS investigators showed up at her home. They announced that they needed to determine if the allegations which they had received were true—allegations which included many of the same specific criminal activities that the county attendance officer had accused homeschooling families of in her Facebook post.
After interviewing the children and viewing the home, the CPS investigators acknowledged that the allegations had absolutely no merit. But being cleared of the allegations did not change the trauma the family experienced as a result of government authorities investigating their home and invading their children’s privacy.
Disturbed by these events, we wrote to the county public school superintendent, requesting a formal apology from the attendance officer to the family “for her unprofessional and intimidating conduct.”
We are awaiting a response.
HSLDA wants to ensure that law-abiding homeschooling families are left in peace so that CPS workers can focus their resources on those children who are in truly abusive and neglectful situations and who actually need their assistance.