As I reported last week, HSLDA filed an emergency appeal of a district court order authorizing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to search a homeschooling family’s home against their wishes. The order also allowed an investigator to transport all five children to the state office for “an interview relating to the investigation or for examinations, including medical, psychological, or psychiatric examinations.”

On March 5, 2024, the appellate court granted our motion to temporarily block the DFPS investigator from enforcing the order while the court considers our appeal. The investigator has until March 19 to respond to our appeal.

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The story so far

Just before Christmas, an 8-year-old boy walked to the dollar store near his home without permission (see the original report for more details). His parents grounded him and told him not to do it again.

Two weeks later, on January 4, a DFPS investigator came to the home, where the parents explained that the boy had never done this before, and he hadn’t done it since. When the investigator explained what she needed to do to complete her investigation, the parents declined. They said they felt the matter had been adequately handled and that the investigator’s services could be better used elsewhere.

On February 16, six weeks after showing up at the family’s home, the investigator wrote in a sworn statement to the district court that the parents would not allow her to “speak with the children” and “did not allow me access to the home environment.” Then she said, “The parents are not cooperating in the investigation, and it would benefit the agency to conduct a proper investigation to come to a conclusion on the case.”

The DFPS attorney waited almost another week, until February 21, to file the investigator’s sworn statement with the court, then wrote that circumstances were so dire that there was no time for a proper hearing, where the parents could tell their side of the story.

The court issued the order requested by the DFPS attorney on February 22, writing that “there is good cause to believe the child is in imminent danger of being subjected to aggravate circumstances.”

The next day, the court clerk sent the parents a letter notifying them the order had been issued, which they received almost a week later on Tuesday, February 27.

The parents immediately called HSLDA. We filed an emergency appeal on Wednesday, and scheduled an emergency hearing in the district court for Thursday to ask the issuing judge to temporarily block the order while the court of appeals considered our appeal.

Before the district court hearing, the DFPS attorney agreed not to enforce the order until Tuesday, March 5. In the meantime, the appellate court asked DFPS to respond to the appeal by noon on Monday, March 4.

Since my last report

Monday noon came and went with no response from DFPS. So, on Tuesday morning, HSLDA’s longtime Texas counsel went back to the district court for an emergency hearing to ask the issuing judge to temporarily suspend the investigation to give the court of appeals time to decide the important constitutional issues surrounding the family’s rights.

It’s customary to give the issuing court an opportunity to rule on the request for stay before the appellate court.

After full argument, the district court denied our emergency motion. DFPS agreed not to go to the family’s home before 5 o’clock on Tuesday, March 5.

At 1 o’clock Tuesday, we formally advised the court of appeals about the proceedings in the district court. At 2:45 p.m., the court of appeals notified us that it had granted our motion to put the investigation on hold while it considers our appeal and that it had extended the deadline for DFPS to respond to March 19, 2024.

Closing thoughts

Next week in this space, I plan to explain in more detail why cases like this one are important, not just for the family involved, but also for the rule of law and the health of a free society. To get this out in our current Weekly Update email, though, I want to address one issue: The reason I highlighted the timing of the report, the investigation, and the district court proceedings.

There are situations when DFPS investigators receive reports about emergencies that demand an immediate response. But this wasn’t one of those situations. The reporter told DFPS in his initial report that the child was unharmed. And the investigator waited two weeks to start investigating and two months to go to court.

The parents were right: This was a situation where the investigator’s time and energy could have been better spent elsewhere, helping a child truly in need.

I want to also thank the parents for their fortitude and willingness to endure the stress litigation like this brings on a family.

And thank you, HSLDA members, supporters, and donors. Without you, we could not have assisted this family in their hour of need.

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