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July 9, 2002

Colorado Home School Family Charged with Educational Neglect

A Home School Legal Defense Association member family who was successfully home schooling their children was suddenly visited by a social worker. The social worker indicated she needed to talk to their daughter and gain entry to the home. When the mother refused the social worker notified the police.

The police came by seven days later thinking that this was an abusive family and threatened to break down the door and arrest the mother if they weren't allowed in. The husband got out their video camera and began video taping the police, who quickly changed their tune. After the police realized that this allegation was just concerning the education of the children and that the family was home schooling, they left.

The family contacted HSLDA, who immediately called and negotiated with the social worker and her supervisor. By then the allegations had expanded to not only educational neglect, but also lack of supervision. The HSLDA attorney provided the social workers with many letters from families who established that the family was not neglectful and always supervised their children. HSLDA also established that this was not educational neglect simply because the family had filed a late notice of intent to home school. Neglect, under the Colorado Revised Statutes, in the area of education is a situation where a parent "fails or refuses to provide a child with ... education." There was no evidence whatsoever that the family in question failed or refused to provide their child with an education.

When HSLDA offered an evaluation to the social workers, they said they were not interested in whether the child was receiving an education but simply whether or not the piece of paper had been filed in a timely manner. The social workers were exceeding their jurisdiction and should have turned the matter over to the school district. The social workers insisted on finding the Y family guilty of educational neglect in spite of HSLDA's attempt to expose their error, and warnings that this was a violation of the family's civil rights under the law (42 U.S.C. 1983). An anonymous tipster who claims educational neglect is not sufficient evidence for the agency to be able to honestly and legally confirm that the family is neglecting their child's education. The parents' act of not filing a timely notice of intent to home school has nothing to do with the education of the child.

Although the social workers have dropped their investigation concerning the lack of supervision, they have confirmed the family in the central registry of educational neglect. HSLDA is appealing their case.