Turned in by Grandpa … for Homeschooling?!
by Dan Beasley • February 20, 2018
“My father-in-law knows that I homeschool but he doesn’t approve of it. He reported me for not putting my children in public school.”
These were the words of Lauralee Baldwin, a single homeschooling mom living in a small suburb of Mobile, Alabama. Lauralee had been homeschooling her daughter Taylor (15) for six years. And she had begun homeschooling her two sons two years ago when it became clear that public school was not the best fit for either of them. Shawn (12) was struggling in school and Joseph’s (10) teachers kept complaining that he finished his work too quickly.
Lauralee found that homeschooling provided the best environment for her children to thrive. She taught them at their own pace and took the time necessary to ensure they were making progress in every area of their education. Sometimes, this meant slowing things down, other times, it meant encouraging them to keep moving through their studies.
Change of Plans
The church school Lauralee was using (as a part of the state’s cover school requirement for homeschooling families) closed down in 2015, and finances were tight, so Lauralee began searching for alternatives to having to pay to enroll in a church school as a means of complying with Alabama’s homeschool law.
She had heard from some friends that she no longer had to enroll in a church school based on some changes to Alabama law in 2014. So she didn’t. She just focused on educating her children.
A disgruntled family member disagreed with Lauralee’s decision. He reported her to Child Protective Services alleging that Lauralee was not properly caring for her children, but not mentioning homeschooling. The investigating social worker visited Lauralee and—to her relief—determined there was no indication of abuse or neglect.
The investigation was closed.
A few months later, Lauralee received official-looking paperwork in the mail. It was a court summons. To her surprise, Lauralee was being criminally charged with truancy—not because she wasn’t doing a good job educating her children, but because she had allegedly not followed the legal requirements to homeschool. It turns out this same family member had made a second report—this time alleging that Lauralee was not qualified to teach her children at home.
Lauralee was correct in thinking that she could legally educate her children at home without enrolling them in a church school. But what she didn’t realize is that Alabama statutes still prescribe certain reporting requirements for parents who wish to utilize this option. In short, Lauralee had to report the names of her children as being enrolled in a home-based private school.
Preparing for Court
I quickly talked Lauralee through the recommended steps to comply with Alabama law, and the school district accepted the paperwork right away.
But the prosecutor still wanted to move forward to the hearing on the charges.
We acted quickly to help Lauralee. We retained Clay Rossi of Mobile as local counsel, and he was by Lauralee’s side every time she had to appear in court.
Working with Rossi, HSLDA’s litigation attorneys filed a memorandum of law arguing that the case should be dismissed based on Lauralee’s current compliance with the law combined with the ambiguity in the current statute. After reviewing our memorandum, the prosecution agreed and the judge signed an order dismissing the case.
The prosecutor warned Lauralee that she must be sure to remain in compliance with the legal requirements for homeschooling or she could face more charges in the future.
You Can Help
And we’re standing in support of Lauralee. In addition to our legal services, Lauralee discovered the wealth of services HSLDA offers to equip her to do an even better job educating her children. She recently was approved for a grant from the Home School Foundation (HSLDA’s charitable arm) to help provide additional homeschool resources.
Because of the many families who generously support HSLDA’s Homeschool Freedom Fund, we were able to provide the kind of legal representation that Lauralee needed.
When homeschoolers stand together, HSLDA is empowered to continue to equip parents to provide the very best education for their children.
“I’m so thankful for HSLDA,” Lauralee reports. “You guys showed up. And everything went well. I’m glad I get to stay home with [my children] and help them with what they need.”
If we can help your family, please don’t hesitate to let us know.