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April 28, 2006

Reading, Writing, and Child Protective Services

Homeschooling is legal in Wyoming, even for children who have special needs. Unfortunately, however, not everyone thinks it should be.

Home School Legal Defense Association has received a number of calls from families who are being investigated for alleged educational neglect. The typical call is an anonymous report of a child (usually a boy in third or fourth grade) who supposedly can't read. That launches a mandatory child protective services (CPS) investigation which can take months to resolve.

If the child who is the subject of the investigation has special needs, HSLDA can usually resolve the issue quickly. "Educational neglect" is legally defined as a "failure or refusal" to provide education. HSLDA helps the CPS worker understand that homeschooling a child with special needs is the exact opposite of neglect.

Where there are no special needs, the allegation of educational neglect may be false and malicious. Such cases could be resolved in a matter of minutes if CPS was content with finding out whether the allegation was true, but that's not how the system works. CPS workers are trained to "protect children," not just "investigate allegations." They don't think it is adequate to find out whether the child can read—they often believe they have to determine whether the child can read "well enough." Unfortunately, CPS has no definition of what "well enough" might be!

HSLDA has been able to protect member families in Wyoming by providing CPS with enough information to rebut the allegation of neglect without inviting value judgments by government officials who know nothing about home education.

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