School District Threatens To Throw Away Homeschool Family’s Official Notice

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School District Threatens To Throw Away Homeschool Family’s Official Notice

An Ohio school district has found a new way to discourage families from homeschooling. The unidentified district simply refused to accept any notices of intent from homeschool families — even official documents, says the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA).

Even though a mother complied with all the district’s requests, officials refused to accept her homeschooling application until she called an attorney, according to HSDLA.

The controversy began when the parents withdrew their son midway through the spring semester.

“That same day, the parents hand-delivered a notice of intent to homeschool to the school district. From the beginning, the district caused problems,” HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly wrote.

The district told the parents that “until the parents notified the county educational service centers (ESCs) of their intent to withdraw,” their son was truant.

The parents then contacted the ESC and were told that their notice to the local district “was all that was necessary to withdraw their son,” Donnelly wrote.

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The family subsequently sent another notice of intent to the school district – this time by certified mail.

“A few days later, the mother received a call from the assistant principal, who insisted that the family file their intent to homeschool via a specific county form,” Donnelly wrote.

The mother then filled out the form – the third attempt at filing a notice – but was told by email that the district was “unable to process [their] request” and that they should notify the ESC. HSLDA responded for the family, telling the superintendent that Ohio law “requires notification to and excuse from the local superintendent, not the ESC.”

“The next day, the school’s attorney notified HSLDA that she was reviewing the situation,” Donnelly wrote. “However, the school district also sent an email to the family, threatening to discard the notification form if no one picked it up within a week. HSLDA contacted the school’s attorney again, expressing concern that the district would seek to destroy a lawfully submitted document.”

In response, the school’s attorney assured HSLDA that the district would not “take measures to hamper your client’s interest in homeschooling” and that the excuse “process is now underway,” Donnelly wrote.

After “prolonged correspondence” with the school’s attorney, “the parents received written confirmation that their child had been excused for homeschooling effective the date they originally submitted the original notice of intent” – that is, the date they had turned it in two months before.

“Many Ohio districts insist that families seeking to withdraw their students from the public school system use a specific notification form to do so, or send notification to the county educational service center,” Donnelly wrote. “HSLDA continues to advocate for our Ohio member families and educate school districts of their responsibility under Ohio law.”

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Homeschool Mom Charged With Truancy For Not Filling Out OPTIONAL Form.

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Homeschool Mom Charged With Truancy For Not Filling Out OPTIONAL Form.

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A homeschooling mom was charged with truancy because she failed to fill out an optional school form.

The unidentified woman had pulled her daughter out of public school in Michigan because of anxiety problems, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reported.

“The mom had dutifully notified the school that her daughter was unable to attend, and she sought assistance from the school to accommodate the girl’s needs,” HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly wrote.

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But even after changes were made, the girl still didn’t feel safe at the school, so the mom decided to homeschool her.

“The mom filed a formal withdrawal notice with the school, informing the principal that she would now be homeschooling her daughter,” Donnelly wrote.

The mom’s notice to the school fulfilled all state law requirements, yet the school’s truant officer nevertheless sent her a “declaration of home schooling” form and asked her to submit it within two weeks.

The mom, though, chose not to fill out the optional form. The officer then “ignored the usual legal process for truancy concerns and instead filed a legal complaint for truancy” – despite the fact the mom had followed the law.

After receiving a notice to appear in court on truancy charges, the mom contacted an HSLDA-affiliated attorney, who subsequently contacted the prosecutor to explain the law. The prosecutor dropped the case.

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Homeschool Family’s Kids May Be Hauled To Public School By Police

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Homeschool Family’s Kids May Be Hauled To Public School By Police

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The children of the last homeschooling family in Sweden soon may be dragged by police to a government-run school.

Marita and Tomas Sandberg apparently are the last couple homeschooling their kids in Sweden, where such education is banned. They’ve already been fined thousands of dollars.

“The national authorities are pressuring the municipality to consider even stronger options to get the children to school,” Jonas Himmelstrand, the president of the national Swedish homeschool association, said in an interview with the Home School Legal Defense Association. “The municipality has mentioned the use of force, including sending the police to pick up the children and take them to school, as a possibility.

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“It is not clear whether Swedish law would allow for this possibility, but the threat is a stark reminder of the hostility that the Swedish government has towards anyone who would dare homeschool,” he added.

It is likely that every other homeschool family has left the Scandinavian nation of 9.8 million people, Himmelstrand added.

Himmelstrand and his family – who homeschool – are living in exile in Finland’s Aland Islands.

Homeschooling was legal in Sweden until 2010. Since then, most Swedish homeschooling families have fled.

Mike Donnelly, director of global outreach for HSLDA, said Sweden’s actions would violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “makes it crystal clear … that parents have the prior right to choose the kind of education their children will receive.” Sweden is a party to the treaty.

“This latest threat to freedom has reminded me that Sweden, a country often touted as a model social democracy, is turning into a dystopia for anyone who does not conform to rigid patterns of accepted behavior,” he wrote. “… Early childhood education [in Sweden] is mandatory, and government-funded day care starts for children as early as age 1. It is the rare exception for a mother to stay home with her young children after the age of 2, and there is tremendous social pressure for women to re-enter the workforce as soon as possible after giving birth.”

HSDLA is collecting money to help the Sandbergs.

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‘Welfare Check’ – Police Now Can Enter Your Home Without Warrant, Judge Rules

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‘Welfare Check’ – Police Now Can Enter Your Home Without Warrant, Judge Rules

A federal judge has ruled that police have the right to enter homes without a warrant as long as they claim to be conducting a “welfare check.”

Lieutenant Joseph Buccilli did not violate the Fourth Amendment when he forced his way into the home of Timothy, LuAnn and Joseph Batt without a warrant in 2012, U.S. District Judge Frank Geraci Jr ruled earlier this year. The case currently is being appealed, and a ruling is expected this fall.

Buccilli was at the home to check on the welfare of Fred Puntoriero, LuAnn’s father, who suffered from dementia.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is representing the family.

“Buccilli and another officer arrived at the Batt home and told Joe they wanted to conduct a welfare check on his grandfather,” the HSLSA reported. “After Joe respectfully refused, explaining that his grandfather had just been seen by a nurse’s aide who reported that all was well, Buccelli forced his way in.”

Geraci concluded in March that Buccilli was immune from the Fourth Amendment because police do not need warrants for welfare checks on at-risk adults, The New York Law Journal reported. Geraci upheld a similar decision made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio of the Western District of New York in July 2016.

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“At issue in this case are so-called welfare checks, which we believe are being used by some officials to circumvent constitutional protection for private citizens to be safe and secure in their homes,” HSLDA contended.

The Batts – who are members of the HSLDA — contend Buccilli violated the Fourth Amendment by entering their home without a search warrant.

‘I Have a Right to Enter the House’

“Numerous opinions in federal courts all the way up to the Supreme Court specifically declare that warrantless welfare checks in the home are subject to traditional Fourth Amendment analysis,” according to the HSLDA. “Unless there is a clearly defined emergency, a state official simply cannot enter a home without a court order.”

Buccilli said a search warrant was not needed. The encounter was recorded on video.

“All I know is a county agency called,” Buccilli said. “And based on their request, I have a right to enter the house and forcibly, if need be, when somebody’s welfare is possibly in question. And that’s why I’m here. The allegation was made that they wanted a welfare check.”

Upon entering the home, Buccilli reported that Fred Puntoriero was in a good environment.

HSLDA said the case could have a major effect on privacy.

“The Fourth Amendment right of individuals to remain safe and secure in their own homes is not only a fundamental civil liberty; it complements the right of parents to direct the education of their children from the sanctuary of home,” HSLDA argued. “Although this case deals with an unwarranted and non-emergency welfare check on an elderly person, the same principles apply to welfare checks on younger people.”

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‘Home School Check. Please Give Us A Call’

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‘Home School Check. Please Give Us A Call’

PARIS, Ky. – Homeschooling families in one Kentucky school district were surprised to discover recently that school officials were conducting unannounced visits to homes – and if no one was there, leaving door hangers.

The February visits within the Paris Independent School District apparently violate a state-wide agreement, which is designed to protect a family’s constitutional right to privacy, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which reported on the incident.

“I got the impression that district staff could become more difficult if I didn’t cooperate in answering their questions or bring out my child to meet them,” one parent, Jenny Griffith, reported. “I tried to handle the situation as civilly as possible, without adding any threat to them.”

Griffith said the two officials who visited her home said the district has plans to visit every homeschool family three times a year.

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“As part of their plan to help families, the school officials asked about attendance records and curriculum,” HSLDA attorney T.J. Schmidt wrote at the organization’s website. “Before leaving, one official asked Jenny about meeting her child.”

Families who were not at home got a doorhanger, reading, “Home school check. Please give us a call.” It was signed by the principal.

But the visits go against Kentucky state law, Schmidt said.

“Under Kentucky law, a homeschool program operates as a private school,” he wrote. “While private schools are required to keep attendance and scholarship records (i.e. report cards) in the same manner as the local public school, homeschooling parents do not need to open their homes and present these documents simply because a school official comes knocking.”

An agreement was reached more than 20 years ago between the homeschool organizations and the state that “unless school officials receive some report or have some evidence that the parents are not educating their children, no further inquiry should be made,’ Schmidt added.

HSLDA has contacted the school district about the law.

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Court Applauds Homeschool Mom, But OKs Criminal Charges Anyway

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Court Applauds Homeschool Mom, But OKs Criminal Charges Anyway

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CLEVELAND — A legal group representing a homeschool mom is filing an appeal after an Ohio magistrate and then a judge convicted her of a misdemeanor after she failed to file the proper paperwork.

“Can a mother whose son is not missing any school, learning eagerly, and even excelling academically still be considered criminally reckless when it comes to his education?” attorney Jim Mason of the Home School Legal Defense Association wrote at the HSLDA website.

The magistrate praised homeschool mom Valerie Bradley for “being so successful with the education aspect” of her homeschool program but then sentenced her to 180 days in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A common pleas judge changed the charge to failing to send her son to school and removed the jail sentence, but HSLDA said all charges should be dropped.

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As Off the Grid News reported in October, the controversy began shortly after Bradley and her husband, David, started homeschooling their son in January 2015.

“That summer the Bradleys received a form letter from school officials requesting that by August 1 they file a notice of intent for the coming year, as well as a student end-of-year assessment,” Mason wrote. “A short time later, Mrs. Bradley spoke with a school employee who told her, correctly, that there is no deadline for the student assessment.”

By late October, the Bradleys had filed their notice of intent, which the school system deemed too late.

“It was then that the state filed a criminal complaint against Mrs. Bradley, alleging that the delay in filing her homeschool paperwork had contributed to the delinquency of her child,” Mason wrote. “

But Valerie Bradley had been teaching her son the entire time and noted in court he was “doing better than when he was in public school.” In fact, on his end-of-year assessment, he scored in the 97th percentile.

HSDLA is appealing the judge’s ruling in an attempt to get the conviction overturned.

“In our brief, HSLDA is asking for the chance to demonstrate how state officials bungled Mrs. Bradley’s case in three fundamental areas: homeschool law, the procedure for dealing with truancy, and the determination of when a parent is reckless,” Mason wrote.

The Aug. 1 deadline is not in state law and is completely arbitrary, HSLDA says.

Further, Mason asserted, she was not acting recklessly, which is legally defined as acting “with indifference toward a known and obvious risk” to a child.

“Mrs. Bradley acted precisely as the legislature intended parents should act when questioned about truancy: promptly and decisively. That should have been the end of the matter,” Mason wrote.

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CPS Seized Her Kids. She Got Them Back – And $700,000, Too

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CPS Seized Her Kids. She Got Them Back – And $700,000, Too

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Officials in Riverside County, Calif., have agreed to pay a family $700,000 as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed after Child Protective Services (CPS) seized a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.

“CPS just took my children,” Vanessa Wilson told Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA) attorneys back in April 2013 after CPS investigator Francisca Russo alleged that the mom was not properly tending to the diabetes needs of her four-year-old daughter.

CPS, with the backing of police, seized both kids.

The son was in state custody for 29 days, the daughter for 50 days.

The controversy began after Wilson took her daughter to the hospital when she experienced flu-like symptoms and lethargy. It was at the hospital that doctors told her that her daughter was diabetic. The daughter was discharged five days later in the care of the mom.

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Wilson followed the treatment plan for her daughter, but three months later a case worker showed up at her door, accompanied by other CPS workers and a police officer. The case worker asked Wilson to administer a blood glucose meter test to the daughter, which the mom did. The reading of 261 was “within the acceptable blood glucose range” that the doctor had given Wilson, according to the lawsuit. And it was “significantly less” than the reading of 435 when the daughter was first administered to the hospital. But that didn’t matter to Russo.

“On her own authority, without asking a doctor about the readings and without seeking a court order, [Russo] took the girl into custody,” HSLDA said in a news release. “After learning that Vanessa homeschooled her seven-year-old son, Ms. Russo asked him a few math questions, asked him to recite the ABC’s, and to read from a book—all while the deputy would not let his visibly distraught mom come to him.

Other doctors, including the girl’s own physician, said her condition was fine.

“Russo made these determinations without any appropriate medical training, degree, or license,” the complaint stated. “… Russo made these determinations without consulting Daughter’s pediatrician, Dr. Swanston, or any other medical professional who possessed appropriate medical training, degree, or license to opine as to the normal blood sugar range of a four-year-old child with new-onset type 1 juvenile diabetes.”

The kids were returned after HSLDA uncovered evidence that CPS had hidden evidence from the courts and them. That evidence convinced a prosecutor to drop the legal case against Wilson.

HSLDA then filed a lawsuit, which included a video deposition of Russo.

“There was simply no better way to reproduce or accurately represent the investigator’s facial expressions, body language, or pregnant pauses,” HSLDA reported in a news release. “Watching her squirm while she tried to explain that a pediatric endocrinologist with 30 years’ experience was wrong—and that she was right—was considerably more effective than reading a transcript.”

Riverside County initially offered only $10,000, but during mediation – and after the video deposition was seen by everyone – agreed to a $700,000 settlement.

“Each of the children have an investment of $100,000 that they can start drawing on when they turn 18,” according to HSLDA. “Vanessa invested part of her money in a new traveling home so that she and the kids can cross the country visiting friends and family; learning while on an unforgettable adventure. Money can’t bring back the lost 50 days, or cure the trauma that all three are still dealing with from the unjustified seizure and separation. But Vanessa is doing her best.”

HSLDA said it acknowledges that CPS investigators “have an important and difficult job” – but asserts they must be held accountable.

“There are rules they have to follow for the safety and protection of those they investigate,” HSLDA said in its release. “And sadly, the CPS system is so wrapped in confidentiality that abuses by officials rarely come to light—except in civil-rights lawsuits like this one.”

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Superintendent Warns Homeschoolers: ‘I Will … Question Parents As I See Fit’

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Superintendent Warns Homeschoolers: ‘I Will … Question Parents As I See Fit’

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NEWARK, Ohio — A superintendent of schools was willing to bend state law in order to gather information about a homeschool family, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA) is alleging.

David Hile, the superintendent for the Licking Valley Local School District in Ohio, asked to see the detailed (subset) test results for an unidentified homeschool student in Newark, Ohio, who had scored well above the minimum requirement.

That is more information than is required by Ohio state law, HSDLA attorney Michael P. Donnelly pointed out in an email to Hale.

The student scored in the 30th percentile of a standardized test, and the state minimum is the 25th percentile. Hile, though, thought the student’s score was too low.

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Ohio law states: “Any child that has a composite score at or above the twenty-fifth percentile shall be deemed to be performing at a level of reasonable proficiency.”

“That information is all that is required by law,” Donnelly wrote.

Hile agreed to back off this time, although he made no promises about the future.

“It is my responsibility under the law,” Hile insisted in a letter to Donnelly, “… to ensure that children in my district are receiving an adequate education [and] I take that responsibility very seriously, whether those children are in our schools or homeschooled. I will continue to question parents as I see fit.”

Donnelly said Hile’s response means homeschoolers must remain vigilant.

“Hile’s response was an over-the-top and overbearing reaction to a simple point of clarification,” Donnelly said. “His attitude reflects an arrogance that implies homeschoolers are not up to the task of educating their children. The facts show that the reverse is true, and I will happily defend our members when they encounter problems with similar public school officials.”

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Jailed For Homeschooling, Right Here In America

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Jailed For Homeschooling, Right Here In America

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Two separate homeschool families in Ohio face jail time and thousands of dollars in fines for narrowly missing state deadlines of which they were unaware.

The charges are for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” – even though the children were homeschooled and even though school officials later acknowledged that the parents’ program met state requirements.

The school system says the parents did not provide proper notification on time that their children would not be in public school.

Instead of notifying the parents when they were in violation of the law, school officials let the absences for the children pile up for about a month before bringing criminal charges against them, attorney Peter Kamakawiwoole of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) said.

In most cases nationwide, Kamakawiwoole said, “if the family resolves the issue promptly, state officials rarely pursue further action—like criminal prosecution—against the parents.”

“Unless you happen to live in Ohio,” he wrote on the HSLDA website.

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Both families were relatively new to homeschool laws in Ohio, the attorney said.

“One family filed a notice of intent when they began homeschooling last year, but did not know they had to file another notice for this school year,” Kamakawiwoole wrote. “The other family filed their annual notice of intent, but did not submit an educational assessment with their notice because they had not yet completed it, and had been told by their school district that there was no deadline for submitting the assessment.”

School officials should have contacted the families when the absences began piling up but did not, Kamakawiwoole said.

“As soon as both families realized their errors, they took action to comply with their districts’ demands,” he wrote. “After filing the paperwork, both families received a letter from their superintendent verifying that their homeschool program is in compliance with state law for the 2015-2016 school year.”

But then the school district brought criminal charges – charges which carry a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and six months in the county jail. Significantly, though, “each day that a child is ‘truant’ can be considered a separate offense,” Kamakawiwoole said.

That means jail time could reach years and fines into the tens of thousands of dollars.

“There is no question that homeschooling families have to meet certain filing requirements in Ohio, and this statute’s primary purpose is to deal with parents who ignore their responsibilities to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” Kamakawiwoole wrote. “But that is not what is happening here. When schools use this statute to prosecute families for what amounts to a simple clerical error, the response is disproportionate and draconian.”

The two families are scheduled to face the charges later this month, and HSDLA is representing them.

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