Home School Legal Defense Association recently defended two families in Tennessee who erroneously received summons for truancy, according to the group’s website.
A longtime HSLDA member family received a letter in early September stating that their youngest child was truant. The homeschool mother was perplexed. Tennessee has several different options to homeschool legally, including enrollment in a church-related school. The youngest child was enrolled in the same church-related school as the rest of the children, and their attendance had never been questioned. On her request, the church school faxed confirmation to the public school that the child was enrolled. Problem over.
Except that it wasn’t. The fax was not delivered to the right person, and the public school would not return the church school’s calls. Two weeks later a sheriff’s deputy visited the home, summoning the mother to court on charges that she had illegally kept her child out of school.
We immediately contacted the prosecutor to explain that the family was homeschooling in compliance with the law. As soon as we provided proof of enrollment—the same proof that had already been sent to the public school—the prosecutor dismissed all charges, telling the court that the matter had been “filed in error.”
The second family was new to homeschooling. After a truancy hearing last year (in which the case was quickly dismissed when the family provided proof that the absences were medically excused) the family decided to homeschool. They enrolled with a church-related school in August. Because of a computer error, the school did not process their enrollment until late September.
The public school filed truancy charges against them. At the initial hearing, the judge threatened to take the children into state custody unless the mother provided verification that they were homeschooling in compliance with the law.
The family contacted HSLDA, who assisted in obtaining proof from the church-related school of their children’s enrollment and current attendance. We contacted the truancy officer to explain that under Tennessee law homeschoolers are not required to follow the public school calendar. Even if the family’s enrollment was not “official” until late September, they still had more than enough time to complete their homeschool program before the end of the year.
When HSLDA appeared before the judge with our member, the truancy officer expressed her vehement disagreement with homeschooling. The judge made no comment and dismissed the case without trial.
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