District loses, homeschool mom 'not guilty'

Sunday, January 10, 2016
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

PennsylvaniaFour months after enrolling her sons in a public charter school, a homeschool mom faced a Pennsylvania school district’s truancy charges as punishment for not submitting a homeschool evaluator’s report on her children — a charge by which she was found “not guilty.”

Battling with the local public school for years to give her gifted and special needs sons proper educational services, a single mother finally decided in the fall of 2014 to try homeschooling her sons to give them the individual attention they needed.

But months later in February 2015, she discovered a local charter school that allowed her to continue teaching her sons at home and provide the services that the local public school formerly denied her — numerous times.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which legally represented the mother against the district, both boys were enrolled in the charter school after their mother submitted evidence of the work they had completed during the months they were homeschooled. They subsequently began their new academic regimen.

They’re back …

However, this solution — which the mother believed gave her sons the best of both worlds — did not sit well with the school district officials she had formerly battled.

“At the end of the school year, even though the boys had been in a public charter school for four months, the school district wrote a letter demanding that the mother comply with the homeschool law and submit an evaluator’s report documenting their homeschooling progress,” HSLDA attorneys reported. “When she chose not to do so, since the boys were now public school students, the school district filed truancy charges against her.”

HSLDA was put into a quandary as to why the district was waging such an attack.

“When is a non-homeschooler still a homeschooler?” the legal group mused over the district’s “odd interpretation” of state law. “According to [this] public school district in Pennsylvania, whether you are currently homeschooling is not as important as whether officials want to charge you with truancy.”

Not understanding why the school district was renewing its attack, the mother gained legal representation from the HSLDA as one of its members.

“[T]he charges were based exclusively on the time that she was homeschooling,” HSLDA Staff Attorney Darren Jones pointed out. “At the trial, the school district told the judge that even though the boys were in school now, ‘she can’t get away with not filing an evaluation!’”

By the books

HSLDA announced the steps it took in the courtroom against the school district’s onslaught on the homeschool mother.

“Our local counsel … pointed out that the Pennsylvania homeschool law requires school districts to set a hearing before the local school board if they are unsatisfied with the evaluation, rather than jumping right to truancy charges,”
 the nonprofit legal organization based in Purcellville, Virginia, shared. “He handed the judge a copy of the homeschool law with the administrative procedure prominently highlighted.”

After examining the law, the judge reportedly turned toward the legal representative of the school district, to whom he directed a determining question.

“Did you ever call for a school board hearing when you didn’t get an evaluation?” the judge asked the district rep.

Once the judge received the rep’s answer that the district never called for a school board hearing, he quickly came to a decision, adhering to state law.

“Well, the law requires it,” the Pennsylvania judge asserted. “I’m finding her not guilty!”

Reactions to the verdict from both sides were noted.

“Outside the courtroom afterwards, the school district representative was obviously upset as he complained to his attorney about the result,” HSLDA informed in a statement summarizing its victory over the government’s overreach in education. “Our member, though, was delighted, as she and her boys left the courtroom to continue their schoolwork at home for the rest of the day.”

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