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EDAL 560 999, LEAD 756 105: Adv Studies:, K-12 Law

- FA2017
Dashboard Fall Semester 2017 FA2017-EDAL-560-999 LEAD-756-105 Week Six: October 2-8, 2017
Discussion: Chapters 6 & 7: School Attendance ... Homeschooling cases

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Discussion: Chapters 6 & 7: School Attendance (pp. 283-


336) & The Instructional Program (pp. 337-405).
Homeschooling cases
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School attendance Current Issues

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Homeschooling cases
by Peterson, Dawn - Friday, October 6, 2017, 11:35 AM

I dont know about you, but for me, reading the homeschooling section of the text left me frustrated. I
know that it shouldnt, but the bias was so strong that even I would question the legal standing of
homeschooling. Im sure Im just over sensitive to the topic, but the text was citing old cases (prior to
many of the more modern homeschool statutes) as though they were the current standing on the topic.
Its no wonder so many public officials handle homeschooling legalities as if it was still illegal.
Thankfully, I know that homeschooling is indeed legal in all fifty states regardless of the light presented
in the text.

I had a really hard time choosing my topic for this weeks discussion. There are several that intrigued
me, and I even contacted a contact of mine Darren Jones, at Home School Legal Defense Association
(HSLDA). He shared one with me that hes recently worked on which I will share, but I want to also
share a more recent news item, that you might find interesting.

In 2012 Mr. and Mrs. Thacker had recently moved to Nebraska and started their homeschool school year
two months after the local public school. Interestingly, Nebraska law states that new homeschooling
families must provide notification 30 days prior to starting their homeschool year and then by July every
year thereafter. Nothing in the statute requires the students to attend another school prior to starting
their homeschool year. Mrs. Thacker filed their notification on September 30 in preparation for a
November 1 start date. The State had received and approved their exempt school status. An anonymous
tip was received that the children were not in school and a deputy was sent to investigate. It was then
that the Thackers were charged with violating the compulsory education laws for the days that passed
between when the public school began and when the state received their notification. HSLDA attorney
Darren Jones represented them but the county judge insisted on charging the parents and they were
convicted.

HSLDA appealed the case to the Appellate court where Judge Doyle agreed that there was nothing in
the Nebraska statute that states that the children must attend another school until their starts and that
the records indicated that the Thackers homeschool would be able to meet the minimum hour
requirements by the deadline of June 30. The lower courts ruling was reversed. (Home School Legal
Defense Association, 2012; State v. Thacker)

The other case I wanted to share with you comes from the state of Missouri. This case never when to
court because the Judge quashed the ruling. More on that later. The basic facts of the case are as
follows. The Swearengin family have two children who enrolled with the local public school for the
2015-2016 school year. In March, when the parents noticed that their son was not progressing well in
school (he wasnt learning to read and was having difficulty with math) Mrs. Swearengin spoke with the
teacher who informed her that she simply didnt have time to work with the children one on one. With
th
that, Mrs. Swearengin informed the school (on March 15 ) that she was going to homeschool her
children and withdrew them. She immediately filed papers of intent with the school who signed them
and gave her copies and suggested that she immediately file them with the courthouse which she did
(which is not required in Missouri) and began to homeschool her children.

The Assistant Superintendent of School for the Ava School district called to tell her that she needed to
come to his office. When she arrived, he asked her if there was anything the public school could have
done to keep them from withdrawing their children to homeschool, since now the school would be
receiving less money from the state (Petition for writ of prohibition, 2016, p. 4). When she shared her
concerns that her son was not making adequate progress he had her fill out more forms which he kept
for his records (p. 5). He then informed her that Judge Carter had established a policy that when
children were withdrawn to be homeschooled, there would be further investigation, and that a
caseworker was required to come out to the Swearengins house (p. 5).

No social worker ever visited their home, but on March 24, 2016 they received an envelope from the
Circuit Court of Douglas County, Missouri. In it was what appeared to be a summons to appear to truancy
court. The notice stated that attendance is mandatory and that failure to comply could result in their
children being placed in the custody of the Missouri Childrens Division.

Here is the problem. There is no such court. This was a court that the Judge had made up this truancy
court to encourage parents to make sure that their children were attending school. There is no law that
states that truancy court is mandatory and that it has the authority to remove a child. This is the only
county that gave notices that appeared to be legal rather than informational. Other counties set
appointments rather than making them mandatory. See below for attached copies of notices. The Judge
had over stepped his authority. When responding to this writ, he attempted to separate himself from
this truancy court.
When HSLDA filed the writ petition to halt the hearing in the truancy court the Supreme Court of
Missouri asked Judge Carter to respond to the petition. Before the Supreme Court could rule on the
petition, Judge Carter quashed it. Quash means to overthrow, make void ("Quash,"). By quashing the
summons, he implies that it should have never been issued in the first place.

Here is the interesting part to me, Missouri law explicitly forbids investigations simply because a family
chooses to homeschool. In this case there was nothing else for the cause of the investigation. The
children had no unexcused absences prior to their withdrawal from school. It is apparent the writers of
the Missouri law recognized that this could be a problem in the future and stated it clearly.
Unfortunately, Judge Carter decided to take homeschoolers to task for choosing to homeschool when he
created a policy with the local districts to send him all student who withdraw for homeschooling.

Looking at what court case I would use in reference to the Swearengin case I would probably cite the
Nebraska v. Thacker (2013) case from above where the Supreme Court ruled that it was wrong to
prosecute for truancy prior to school enrollment. If the Swearengin case had gone to trial in a real
court that is probably the only reason they could prosecute. The problem would have been that the
students didnt miss any school in reality because the Mom filed with the court her intent to
homeschool in a state that does not require such notification. She went above and beyond the law on
this matter.

Unfortunately, as we have seen by the way that homeschooling was handled in our text, there are many
out there like Judge Carter that try to find ways to deny parents the opportunity to choose how their
children are educated. Below are the two examples of the notification processes for truancy issues in
Missouri. The first one is simply a notification, the other appears to be a summons to a court hearing
that has the authority to remove children from their parents custody.
References

Home School Legal Defense Association. (2012). Appeals judge overturns parents truancy convictions.
Retrieved from https://www.hslda.org/hs/state/ne/201209180.asp

HSLDA. The swearengin case. Retrieved from https://www.hslda.org/legal/cases/Swearengin.asp

Petition for writ of prohibition. (2016). Anthony Swearengin and Tiffany Swearengin v. Honerable Craig
Carter Retrieved from https://hslda.org/hs/state/mo/Petition_for_Writ%20of_Prohibition-SC.pdf

Quash. Retrieved from http://thelawdictionary.org/quash/

State v. Thacker. 286 Neb. 16.

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Re: Homeschooling cases
by Youngs, Tammy - Friday, October 6, 2017, 7:05 PM

HI Dawn!

Great post, and lots to think about. Homeschooling is definitely a trend. According to a recent cns
news article homeschooling was up over 60% over a 10 year period, and that was in 2015, it
continues to grow each year. I think that there are going to be more and more of these types of
cases due to families being more mobile and moving from state to state. While I know that
education is a state issue, i am curious if it will come to the need for some general, cross the states,
type of policies. In general, public education is pretty seamless from state to state, especially now
with common core, do you think homeschool will see this trend?

1,773,000: Homeschooled Children Up 61.8% in 10 Years. (2015, May 19). Retrieved October 06, 2017,
from https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/1773000-homeschooled-children-
618-10-years

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Peterson, Dawn - Sunday, October 8, 2017, 10:50 AM

Tammy,

I really dont know if the homeschooling laws will become more standard. I tend to think not. As
we have learned, every state has their own unique constitution which means that every way a
state views homeschooling will be unique to how their constitution is set up. It would make it
more simple for those who move around a lot to have one standard so that you werent
constantly learning each states requirements, but nothing else is common amongst states. We all
have to take new drivers exams everytime e move, if they cant make something like that simple
and standard, why would they on something as important as education. Good question thought!

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Youngs, Tammy - Sunday, October 8, 2017, 12:41 PM

Your example of drivers license made me laugh a little. It is a little bit crazy, especially
knowing how you can drive in the other states, but the minute you move there, you suddenly
have to prove you can drive all over again. But I think that was somewhat of my thought. It
seems a little crazy that there are so many different regulations, but at the same time I
appreciate the ability for each state to have the right to govern their state. In public school
with the push for Common Core, it seems that education, unlike drivers licensing, is tending to
move more to a national standard. However, I see the pushback too in regards to Common
Core.

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Re: Homeschooling cases
by Easley, Andrew - Saturday, October 7, 2017, 6:49 PM

Dawn,

Very, very intriguing. Sometimes I think that there are too many rules, and laws that govern our
school systems whether they are public, private, or homeschooling it doesn't matter. I agree with you
when it comes to how are textbook tends to view homeschooling, but I think that has a lot to do
with how some parents have abused the system. It also has to do with the all mighty dollar. Part of
what you shared dealt with why would you want to do that, you are taking money out of our pocket.
Sorry, my attempt to really paraphrase something you shared above. Going back to my first point, I
know that there are parents who abuse the laws of the state when it comes to homeschooling. I
witnessed it first hand when I worked in PA. There was a family that had seven children, the mother
claimed that she was homeschooling her kids, but the truth was the only one she really ever did
anything with of significance was her oldest child. She used to bring them to the Adventist school in
Gettysburg, PA on visitation days and it wasn't pretty. She would have here kids visit 3rd through 7th
grade, they only one of her kids that could read was her 7th grade child. The rest from 3rd and up
couldn't read, could barely write. As teachers in the Adventist system we felt really bad, but at the
time we weren't sure how best to help her. We found it difficult to understand how this could be
considering that PA has very strict guidelines for homeschooling. I know this because my sister
homeschool's her kids, and she follows the laws so that she doesn't get into trouble. I can say there
is a night and day difference between the two families. My sister's kids are head and shoulders above
most if not all the public-school kids in their local town, and I would submit the private school
students as well. I do know that that parent in Gettysburg, PA struggled to keep her kids on task
because they were always moving, at least that is what was shared with us at the time. She knew
that the state would catch up with her sooner rather than later. From what has been shared with me
about that parent she now has her kids enrolled in the Adventist school in Gettysburg, PA.

I do not know Dawn. I believe in homeschooling, because as a family unit my wife and I have used it
when we have had to. That being said, I am an Adventist School teacher, but one that believes
parents should have a right to choose what they do with their kids. If it is homeschooling that is fine
by me, as long as the parents are willing to following the laws outlined by their state, without trying
to find ways to circumvent them. I would also say, that if parents choose the homeschooling route
that they need to take it seriously so that their children can have the best success that they can.

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Peterson, Dawn - Sunday, October 8, 2017, 10:24 AM

Andrew,

I agree with you. It makes me cringe when some choose the unschooling theory of education if
you can call it education. I find myself wanting to let the states mandate to educate all their
children work in the childrens favor. I struggle to give them the right to choose their childrens
educational future in a situation like that. Unfortunately, families like these give homeschoolers
a bad name. I dont know if that family subscribed to that theory or if there were just lazy, but I
feel like they are the ones that that the state needs to step in and look out for the childs best
interest.

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Youngs, Tammy - Sunday, October 8, 2017, 1:11 PM

The connection between homeschooling and neglect is real. Especially in states like
Michigan where there is so little regulation. In an article a police officer stated "I despise the
law, because the families I deal with use it as a loophole. Happens all the time. Youll have a
parent who is clearly neglectful and we cant get resolution, and theyll say, Ive decided to
homeschool my child and theres nothing I can do about it. (CRHE, 2017) As homeschool
increases, and the structures of society continue to be weakens, I see this becoming a rather
large problem. This going to have to be addressed by the states.

On a sidenote, as someone who has homeschooled for many years, I too hate this stigma that
has seemed to plague homeschooling families. The squeaky wheel unfortunately is often
times taken as the norm, instead of the exception.

Homeschooling & Educational Neglect. (2016, March 05). Retrieved October 08, 2017, from
https://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/abuse-and-neglect/educational-
neglect/#devalued

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Easley, Andrew - Monday, October 9, 2017, 8:12 AM

Tammy,

There isn't a lot of regulation in Wisconsin either. I know that my wife has done her best to
follow what little regulation the state has given. She outlined a very well rounded
homeschool program for our High School age child who finished last year. He had to work,
and it took him long hours, but he finished his schooling, and is now in college and is
loving what he is in school for. I think that states need to be more consistent with the
regulations that govern homeschool. You can have too much regulation and too little.
States need to work to find the right amount, and they need to be willing to enforce the
laws that they have created to govern homeschooling parents.

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Easley, Andrew - Monday, October 9, 2017, 7:51 AM

Dawn,
I agree, but unless the state is really monitoring all homeschoolers, it will be difficult to catch
all parents who have this mindset. Personally, I believe this mother was just being lazy,
because she was overwhelmed, with all of her kids. I know that now she has her kids in the
Gettysburg Adventist School.

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Campbell, Prudence - Monday, October 16, 2017, 7:10 PM

There are so may things that can go wrong under the caption of "homeschooling" . Like
you said laziness can be a factor resulting in educational abuse. I have witnessed homes
school being used as a cover up for abusive parental behavior. In this case the child was
eventually removed from the father and sent to the mother who since August of this year
has enrolled the 12 year old boy for the first time in one of our schools. He is way below
grade level. He is enjoying school, willing to work and has regrets of not speaking out
against his father who did not allow him to communicate with his mom. He also thought
his experience was a normal behavior.

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Re: Homeschooling cases


by Jeffery, James - Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 8:55 AM

Excellent thoughtful comments Andrew.

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