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On the Case:
Testing for Utah Homeschool Student Nixed
|Staff Attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole is a member of HSLDA’s litigation team. He is married and the father of three small children.|
In March 2013 a lifetime Utah member contacted Home School Legal Defense Association concerning court summons to academically test her 14-year-old daughter.
The homeschooling mother received a visit in January 2013 from a sheriff’s deputy and a social investigator from the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS). Based on an anonymous tip, the social worker told the mother that he was there to inquire into her older daughter’s education because he was “concerned that [she] is not being educated.”
Between two separate visits, the investigator presented the family with several demands. He insisted that the 14-year-old receive an evaluation for Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) services from the local public school. The investigator also mentioned that the family would have to comply with a DCFS family plan. After the second visit from the investigator, the family contacted HSLDA.
The Court Hearing
Because the member did not immediately agree to have her daughter academically evaluated at the public school, the DCFS worker claimed that the student was educationally neglected. He petitioned a judge to order the testing with a long-term plan of monitoring the homeschooler academically and requiring an academic plan for her 4-year-old sister when she started school.
The DCFS worker automatically assumed that the homeschooling mother was unable to adequately educate her children, even though she had complied with the homeschool regulations established by the state of Utah. Moreover, the social worker had not followed the law by supplying the family with prior notification of violating the compulsory education law. If the judge were to order the evaluation, then DCFS would be able to claim that any homeschooled child who refused to be arbitrarily evaluated by the public school was neglected.
In preparation for the hearing, HSLDA partnered with a local attorney and homeschooling father, who agreed to represent the member at the initial scheduling hearing. HSLDA also drafted a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that in Utah, the state can only initiate an educational neglect proceeding if the local school district provides prior written notice of a compulsory attendance violation, and gives the parents an opportunity to address the violation. In this case, the local school district had no issues with the family’s homeschooling; neither had it initiated the DCFS prosecution of the family.
After presenting this argument to the prosecutor and the court, the prosecutor agreed with HSLDA that the proceeding was improper, and the judge dismissed the case. The homeschooling family avoided a trial and was not required to undergo public testing or submit to an academic plan.
HSLDA’s work on defending homeschool families depends on the support and membership of all HSLDA members. We appreciate our members who make a victory, including the defense of this Utah homeschool family, possible. If you are not a current member, we invite you to partner with us to defend homeschooling!