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Spoiler alert: it involved 2 months, 3 attorneys, and many, many phone calls.

What It Takes to Free a Child from District 75

by Tj Schmidt • February 7, 2018

Homeschooling is supposed to be about providing the best for your children.

But in New York City, the decision to homeschool often lands parents in a nightmare of red tape, including bureaucratic delays, demands for additional documentation, home visits—and even criminal investigations.

This sort of turmoil is exactly what the Gorman family experienced when they decided to withdraw their 6-year-old son from a public school that provides special needs education.

As Home School Legal Defense Association members, however, the Gormans had access to the advocacy and legal resources that helped them navigate these obstacles and make homeschooling possible for their family.

The family’s troubles began last November, when Danielle Gorman did what state law requires in order to begin home instruction—she submitted a notice of intent and an individualized home instruction plan (IHIP).

Dealing with the District

While most homeschooling families in New York City report to the Central Office of Home Schooling, when a child has any type of special educational need and receives services, his homeschool paperwork is directed to the Department of Education’s District 75.

Two weeks after Danielle submitted the paperwork, she received a letter from District 75 insisting that her son remain enrolled in public school. She also started receiving phone calls from public school officials warning her that her son was being considered absent and that she risked repercussions for not sending him to school.

That’s when the Gormans contacted us.

I called District 75’s director of attendance and sent follow-up emails.

In spite of this, officials at the boy’s former school followed city policy and reported the Gormans for educational neglect 30 days after they began homeschooling. Soon the Gormans were visited at home by investigators from the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), which is part of Child Protective Services.

Danielle had done everything correctly; her family was simply exercising their legal right to homeschool.

Unfair Treatment

Sadly, we’ve seen this sort of callous disregard for the rights of homeschooling families before. Late in 2016 HSLDA sued New York City on behalf of Tanya Acevedo, who was investigated by ACS officials for alleged educational neglect—all because the central office took too long to process her paperwork.

While the Acevedo case is still being litigated, we are confident it will eventually deliver justice and relief to homeschooling families in New York City. We are also pressing for reforms to the state’s overall regulations. After 30 years of dealing with the same onerous requirements, New York homeschooling families deserve greater freedom!

As for the Gormans, we were finally able to obtain resolution after bringing in local attorney Sean Eccles. We contacted ACS and explained that there was no educational neglect and that Danielle was in compliance with New York law. Sean, who is our local affiliated attorney in the Acevedo case, also contacted the city’s attorney about this new matter.

On January 9, I reached an official with District 75 who explained that the IHIP for the Gormans’ son was still being transitioned to an individual education services plan (IESP). A few days later, the district’s director of attendance called me back and said the boy had been withdrawn from the public school and was now registered as a homeschool student.

Nearly two-and-a-half months after submitting all of her paperwork, Danielle could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Thomas J. (Tj) Schmidt

Staff Attorney

Tj is an attorney and homeschooling dad dedicated to defending the rights of homeschooling families across the country. Read more.

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