In a case that is just now becoming public, a Massachusetts couple found themselves facing truancy charges earlier this year because they chose to homeschool their sick son.
The boy, Samuel (whose last name was not revealed), and his parents even had to go to court to defend their actions.
The couple pulled Samuel out of middle school because symptoms of his Lyme disease made it impossible for him to maintain steady attendance. The boy had been homeschooled in the past and the local superintendent of schools previously endorsed homeschooling. This time, though, the unidentified school district had a very different response.
“We must consider Samuel’s absence from school unlawful and take the necessary steps to report this information to the appropriate authorities,” a letter from the school district stated.
Five days after receiving the letter the family was in court, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reported. The legal organization is representing the family.
HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly contacted the school district, which decided to drop the allegations and approve a homeschooling plan for Samuel.
“This particular superintendent expressed a general support for the concept of homeschooling, but deferred to the middle school principal on how to handle the attendance issue,” Donnelly said. “Although she defended her district’s rapid escalation to a court petition, I pointed out to her that the Massachusetts Supreme Court had explicitly counseled parents and school authorities to work through disputes before bringing a case to court.”
“Unfortunately, all too often policies can trump people. When school officials get too busy, they just can’t give each situation the attention it needs. So they follow policy — it’s just the reality of an institutional environment.”
Homeschoolers can be labeled truant if school districts do not receive the proper paperwork, Donnelly noted. The school claimed it did not have the proper documents, even though it had a history with the family and previously had approved a homeschool plan.
Homeschooling Family Charged with Neglect
Sadly, cases like this one aren’t all that rare.
In another Massachusetts case, a homeschool family was investigated by the Massachusetts Department for Children and Family (DCF) because their daughter was battling depression.
The allegation came after the family sought treatment for the girl’s depression and the doctor called DCF, believing the depression was related to her being homeschooled.
An investigating social worker agreed with the doctor and found that the parents had neglected her. The parents appealed, and a hearing officer overturned the social worker’s neglect finding.
“Social service investigations can happen at any time to families from all walks of life,” an HSLDA press release stated.
Homeschooling families are particularly vulnerable to such investigations because many people consider them suspicious.
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