April 22, 2005

School District Overreacts and Files Truancy Charges

Home School Legal Defense Association recently defended a Tennessee family who was charged with truancy in a dispute over which paperwork requirements were needed to withdraw from public school.

During the 2004-2005 Christmas break, Mr. and Mrs. Henry decided to withdraw their son Chad from public school and homeschool him. In compliance with Tennessee law, they enrolled him in New Systems School, Inc., a private, church-related school. They notified the public school of their intent, and at the request of New Systems School (NSS), the public high school forwarded Chad's records to NSS.

The school district then requested several times that the family register Chad as a homeschool student "associated with a church-related school." Since this registration is not required, Mr. and Mrs. Henry declined to do so.

Two months later, on March 22, 2005, the Henry family received notice that their son was being charged with truancy as an "unruly child." They contacted HSLDA for assistance, and we immediately called the school district to determine why the family was being charged.

The school district claimed at first that the family had not registered Chad. Upon being informed in a faxed letter that the parents were not legally required to do so, another representative from the school district then claimed that the parents had not signed the proper withdrawal forms. When Mr. Henry and his son went to the public school to formally sign him out, however, the story changed yet again. An official with the high school declared that it was Chad's teachers, not the parents, who needed to sign the withdrawal forms.

Chad was able to secure the signatures of all the teachers he'd had in public school. After this information was sent to the school district, the district withdrew the truancy charges, and the family was left alone to homeschool.

"The school district acted in a heavy handed manner. It should not have overreacted and filed truancy charges," said James R. Mason, III, HSLDA litigation attorney. "We're glad that we were able to intervene and protect this member family, but it never should have gone this far."