December 17, 2001

California Social Worker: "Home Schooling, Spanking Illegal"

Home School Legal Defense Association members Mr. and Mrs. D. were contacted by a social worker after their young child left the house without their knowledge and walked a short distance down their cul-de-sac. Although the family took immediate steps to make sure there would be no "repeat performance," the social worker still insisted on doing a full investigation.

During the investigation, the social worker made several comments that caused the family concern. First, she claimed that they were not legally home schooling, since they were not in a public school independent study program (ISP). Second, she asserted that spanking a child was illegal in California and tried to coerce Mr. and Mrs. D. into enrolling in parenting classes by threatening that their children could be "taken into custody" if the parents were ever investigated again.

When the family informed HSLDA of this encounter, we quickly intervened on their behalf, faxing the social worker a letter dealing with these two issues. We explained that the family was in total compliance with California home school law because they were home schooling as a private school. Also, we attached a California attorney general's opinion that corporal punishment, even with an object other than the hand, is not unlawful. The standard for such discipline is that it be age-appropriate and reasonable.

Since receiving our letter, the social worker has left the family alone.

HSLDA believes that true child abusers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The wrongdoing of a few, however, should not compromise the freedom and constitutional rights of the rest of American citizens who are considered innocent until proven guilty.

 Other Resources

HSLDA Policy Statement: Social Services Investigation Cases

Opinion No. 97-416 of Daniel E. Lungren, California Attorney General