A judge in Ohio has agreed to dismiss criminal charges against homeschooling parents who forgot to file required paperwork after the local prosecutor asked for the dismissal.
But another criminal case still looms against a second homeschool family in the state, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the world’s premiere advocates for parents who educate their children.
The details of the two cases remain sketchy, since the families have not wanted to be identified.
But HSLDA confirmed Wednesday that in the first case, charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for forgetting to file a notice of intent with the local school district – which was quickly corrected when discovered – were dismissed.
The organization explained that in 2014, their first year to homeschool, the family worked under the supervision of a private school. When they decided to move to an independent status for 2015-2016, they were unaware a notice of intent was required.
So the local district counted the children as “absent.”
After a month, a truant officer visited the family, letting them know for the first time of the problem. He gave them an ultimatum: Prove you are homeschooling or appear in court.
“The next day, the homeschooling mother brought proof of her homeschool to the officer. But despite what the officer had told the family, the school district filed criminal charges against the family that same day, accusing them of ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’ – a crime that is punishable in Ohio with up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail,” HSLDA reported.
HSLDA then raised the question of whether the prosecutor would be able to prove that the family “recklessly” contributed to truancy.
“‘Recklessly’ means that she acted with ‘heedless indifference to the consequences’ and ‘disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk’ to her children,” HSLDA said. “That is a hard legal standard to meet, especially when the only allegation is that someone failed to file a piece of paper.”
HSLDA was in the process of requesting that the judge dismiss the case when the prosecutor submitted the same request, which then was granted.
WND reported in February when the two cases were developing that HSLDA confirmed both families were relatively new to homeschooling in Ohio. One failed to file an annual notice, and the second family did not submit an educational assessment when the school district wanted it.
Peter K. Kamakawiwoole Jr., a staff attorney for HSLDA, told WND when the cases developed that the organization was assembling a defense.
“I wish I could say that this incident is an isolated occurrence, but unfortunately cases like this tend to recur every few years in Ohio: Families submit a document late, and rather than the school district following up with the family after a few absences are accrued, the district waits until many absences are accrued. When these families finally were contacted by school officials, they provided the missing paperwork, and the school filed criminal charges against them.”
He explained that in both cases the children “were attending the school they thought they were enrolled in, they were obeying their parents who expected them to do their school work, and they were doing their lessons daily.”
“These are simply not the sort of families that the Ohio Legislature intended to be subject to these sorts of criminal penalties.”
He said the “tragedy is that these prosecutions are entirely avoidable.”
“Ohio’s compulsory attendance statute has specific provisions which are supposed to apply when a school district believes that a child is truant, and those provisions require – among other things – that parents be provided notice when a district believes a child is truant, and affords parents multiple opportunities to correct the behavior of the child (or, in this case, to correct clerical errors). The compulsory attendance statute recognizes that parents can ultimately be prosecuted – but only as a last resort, after intermediary measures have been taken to correct the problem, and have failed.”