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April 5, 2016

Rapid developments in Missouri Case

Family Safe from Phony Court—For Now

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Prompt action by HSLDA means that, for the moment, a Missouri homeschooling family does not have to report for a phony truancy hearing.

SCOTT WOODRUFF Contact Attorney for Missouri

As for the ultimate disposition of the case, we’re still waiting on official word from the Supreme Court of Missouri.

The rapidly changing legal situation began on April 1, when HSLDA asked the Missouri Court of Appeals to order Circuit Court Judge R. Craig Carter of Ava to stop his attempt to summon a homeschooling family to appear before a court that doesn’t exist.

Late on Friday night we learned that the Court of Appeals had denied our writ, which meant that the fake “truancy court” hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday morning was still technically on. On Saturday, we asked the Supreme Court of Missouri to consider our petition.

Meanwhile, HSLDA Senior Attorney Scott Woodruff flew to Missouri on Sunday to appear for the family on Monday morning at 10 a.m. At that time, Judge Carter told Woodruff that the Supreme Court had called him about the petition and that the hearing would not be held that morning after all.

Not Genuine

Until last month, Tiffany and Anthony Swearengin had been sending their 6- and 8-year old children to public school. But they became convinced that the children could make better progress at home. Soon after beginning to homeschool their children, they received a document in the mail that looked exactly like a real court document. It was signed by an official and mandated the Swearengins to show up at “truancy court” with their children at the Juvenile Court Center in Mountain Grove, over 30 miles from their home.

This frightening document said the “truancy court” would discuss the kids’ school attendance, “which brings them within the jurisdiction of the juvenile division of the Circuit Court.” Even worse, the document threatened that if they did not show up, officials might seek to put the children into state custody.

On the advice of friends, the Swearengins had joined HSLDA. So they knew who to call.

What We Found

As the HSLDA legal team looked into the situation, we quickly learned that the “truancy court” was fake. No such court exists.

And the alarming letter was fraudulent. It was typed up to look exactly like a real court document for the sole purpose of fooling people and scaring them into obeying.

Our investigation revealed that Judge R. Craig Carter is responsible for this program. We also learned all new homeschool families in Douglas County can now expect the same treatment the Swearengins received.

“Using deception to motivate people is beneath the dignity of the courts,” said HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris, “and it’s illegal. That’s why our legal team and I worked together to prepare documents asking the Missouri Supreme Court to order Judge Carter to stop this sham.”

Farris continued, “It’s important to protect public confidence in the court system and the rule of law. We anticipate that the Missouri Supreme Court will rebuke Judge Carter.”

Several other jurisdictions around the state have informal programs (which they also call “truancy courts”) to encourage regular school attendance. Those programs, however, don’t try to trick people or scare them into thinking they are in a real court. They are honest and transparent.

Encouraging students to obey the attendance laws is an honorable goal. But those who pursue that goal must themselves obey the law.

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Read More

Documents submitted by HSLDA to the Supreme Court of Missouri:

Petition for Writ of Prohibition

Suggestions Why this Court Should Grant a Writ of Prohibition

Documents submitted by HSLDA to the Court of Appeals for the Southern District of Missouri:

Writ Summary

Petition for Writ of Prohibition

Suggestions Why This Court Should Grant a Writ of Prohibition

Index of Exhibits