A Missouri mom who was facing an investigation after school officials complained she was homeschooling two of her children has been cleared for now, but lawyers say they will be watching the situation there closely.
WND earlier reported on the case against Anita Nicoli, which was closed as a result of a meeting she and her lawyer had with a representative of the government’s social services agency in Moberly, officials said, but statements the juvenile officer made during the meeting are triggering additional concern.
“We are concerned, based on statements during that meeting, that officials may be arbitrarily launching investigations on every family who decides to homeschool their children,” said a statement from the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The group, which advocates for the rights of homeschoolers worldwide, had come into the case to assist when Nicoli began have difficulties with her local school. The organization set up the services of Columbia, Mo., lawyer Dewey Crepeau to represent Nicoli as needed.
“This [the arbitrary investigations] raises the possibility of a constitutional violation since a mere decision to homeschool does not legally justify an investigation,” the statement said. “HSLDA will continue to monitor the situation.”
David Ellis, whose 1985 “Ellis vs. O’Hara” case in Missouri was instrumental in revising compulsory school requirements and removing undue burdens from homeschoolers, told WND that educational authorities in that state apparently have not changed their tactics in more than 20 years.
“You are considered guilty by the [Division of Family Services] until you prove your innocence and jump through their hoops,” he wrote in a letter to the editor at WND. “We chose to ignore their threats and fought them instead. It was one of the most costly and tough times of our lives, but it was worth it, since our grandchildren now will have the freedom to be educated as their parents deem appropriate.”
The current case against Nicoli, however, has been closed, officials said.
She and the lawyer met with the designated chief juvenile officer and a deputy chief juvenile officer and discussed for about 30 minutes her concerns about the school and her plans for homeschooling two of her children.
After the investigators were shown information about the controlling homeschool laws as well as Nicoli’s homeschool plans, “the juvenile officer agreed to close the matter,” the statement said.
Moberly, Mo., Middle School
Nicoli had been warned that she needed to meet with the social services workers or face a possible court case for her decision to remove her daughter and a son from Moberly Middle School.
She told WND she made that decision recently because of what she has described as a two-year campaign of intimidation by other students.
The breaking point came when another student, who allegedly had harassed and assaulted her daughter, drew a picture of herself holding a gun and pointing it directly at Nicoli’s daughter. The picture was passed around among students, she said.
Multiple telephone messages left with officials at the school district were not returned. But Nicoli told WND that she is accused of “educational neglect” by social services, based on a complaint from the school.
The incident that she perceived as a threat was especially egregious, she told WND, because the student who drew the picture showed it to her daughter, and then other students saw it as well. One student told a teacher, who took the picture. But Nicoli said when she found out and wanted a copy of the offending picture to pursue a complaint, the school told her it had been lost.
Drawings of weapons in schools aren’t new. In fact, WND reported just weeks ago that a 13-year-old in an Arizona school was suspended for three days for drawing a sketch of a gun, even without any targeted individual.
In that case, according to a report by KPHO-TV in Phoenix, the principal at Payne Junior High School kept the actual drawing, and officials with the Chandler Unified School District declined to release any information about the situation.
But the student’s mother said he was just “doodling.”
In Nicoli’s encounter with school officials in Moberly, she said her children had been subjected to harassment and badgering at the school for several years. She cited incidents of being slapped, bullied, kicked and butted, as well as threatened. Her son was shoved into a metal bar. Another time a student used a seat belt buckle on the school bus to hit him.
The last situation with her daughter happened when the other student hit her daughter in the face with a locker door, leaving a bruise on her check. Then the other student slapped her daughter, punched her, and threatened to “kick” her.
The attacker then drew the picture and showed it to Nicoli’s daughter before it was taken by the teacher, she said.
Discussions with school administrators led nowhere, so she notified the school of her homeschool plans and went forward.
“Three days after I pulled my kids out, the school apparently wrote a letter to juvenile authorities [with a complaint],” she told WND
“They’re lashing out because they didn’t want to deal with the reason for this – what they were not doing for my children,” Nicoli said. “I told them, ‘My children have a right to a safe and proper education, and you’re not doing it so I’m pulling them out.'”
Her previous complaints about such treatment generally was met with the response that “There were no witnesses,” or “The witnesses don’t agree,” Nicoli said. She said police were never notified of the incidents, and many times she wasn’t even told until her son or daughter told her.
“One vice principal accused my daughter of putting marks on herself,” Nicoli said.
She said officials accused her of being irrational after withdrawing her two older children from the Moberly Middle School, but she pointed out that left her younger son in public school classes, where he seems to be thriving at a different location, she said.
Offending drawing (Photo: KPHO-TV, Phoenix)
The Arizona situation involved the Mosteller family, who recently had moved from Colorado Springs to Chandler, Ariz.
Ben Mosteller said his son is a “very good boy” and there was no threat, disagreeing with school officials who said they “absolutely” perceived the drawing as a threat. His wife said her son was idly drawing pictures and ended up with a fake laser.
“This once great land of ours (now someone else’s) gets SICKER by the day. Not the year, not the month, not the week, but by the DAY. Dennis Prager asked a very interesting question: How did the “Greatest Generation” give birth to the “Most Stupid Generation?” (my paraphrase),” wrote “loamy l” on a local newspaper forum.
Prager, a WND columnist, recently reported on the case in McMinnville, Ore., where students created something called “slap butt day” at Patton Middle School.
He reported that on one such day in February, “Two boys tore down the hall of Patton Middle School after lunch, swatting the bottoms of girls as they ran – what some kids later said was a common form of greeting. But bottom-slapping is against policy in McMinnville Public Schools. So a teacher’s aide sent the gawky seventh-graders to the office, where the vice principal and a police officer stationed at the school soon interrogated them.”
The students were read their Miranda rights and hauled in handcuffs to jail, where they spent the next five days.
All because the Yamhill County district attorney, Bradley Berry, brought felony sex charges against the two boys. When he finally explained himself under pressure from the media, Berry told the Oregonian, “From our perspective and the perspective of the victims, this was not just horseplay.”
But Prager reported the girls, in fact, did regard it as horseplay. And they claimed from virtually the outset that they had been pressured into making a case against the boys.
“Our beloved country is flipping out. The effects of The Age of Stupidity ushered in during the ’60s and ’70s are omnipresent. It is highly doubtful that there is a living member of the World War II generation who could have imagined that seventh-graders would one day be brought in shackles into an American courtroom for playfully swatting a girl’s buttocks,” Prager wrote.