COLUMBUS, Ohio — An unidentified homeschool mother in Ohio faced up to 180 days in jail for not filing paperwork on time – even though she taught her child the entire time.
The mother’s problems began when she withdrew her child from public school in January 2015, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reported. The child thrived in the new environment, leading the mom to want to continue the homeschool path.
In May 2015, the school district sent the mom a letter notifying her about the upcoming annual notification process for the next school year – a process she knew little about. She phoned the school and was told she needed “to file a notice and an end-of-year assessment” but was told “there’s no deadline,” said HSLDA, which is representing the mom. She even was told by the school that many homeschoolers teach their children year-round – something that she decided to try that summer.
In September 2015 the mom was preparing to send in her paperwork when she got a notice telling her it actually was due on August 1, even though she had been told there was no deadline. Her child had been marked absent from school for six weeks. She hastily sent in the paperwork and the school district OK’d it, but the story turned into a nightmare when she received a summons to criminal court for charges of “contributing to the delinquency” of a minor. It mattered little that her child had scored in the 97th percentile on a standardized evaluation test.
“At the trial, the mother testified extensively about her decision to homeschool, her conversation with school officials, her son’s summer-school program, and his stellar assessment results,” HSLDA wrote.
The magistrate, though, sentenced her to 180 days (six months) in jail, which was suspended if she and her child attended truancy classes (which they did).
That sentence had to be approved by a court of common pleas judge, who overturned the magistrate’s decision but convicted her of “failure to send a child to school” – a misdemeanor.
HSLDA said it will appeal.
“While we are relieved that the judge revoked the magistrate’s ‘contributing’ conviction along with its draconian sentence of jail time, we are disappointed that the judge instituted any conviction at all,” HSLDA wrote. “We are preparing an appeal to overturn this new conviction on grounds that were raised before the magistrate and the court of common pleas, both of which ignored our arguments. The state’s evidence fell far short of the standard required for a criminal conviction, and we will make sure the court of appeals receives that message loud and clear.”
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