An attendance officer in a West Virginia school district posted a Facebook message in support of public schools shortly after a teachers’ strike declaring 80 percent of homeschoolers “are drug addicts, have truancy charges, [engage in] childhood sex trafficking, etc.”
Then a local family contacted the officer to inform the officer, as required by state law, of its intent to homeschool.
The next day, Child Protective Services arrived at the family’s home demanding to investigate “allegations which included many of the same specific criminal activities that the county attendance officer had accused homeschooling families of in her Facebook post,” according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
“After interviewing the children and viewing the home, the CPS investigators acknowledged that the allegations were ridiculously meritless. But the family had already been traumatized,” HSLDA said.
HLSDA wrote to Supt. Blaine Hess to ask for an apology for the family and corrective action to ensure such treatment doesn’t happen again.
The names of the family members and the school attendance officer are redacted in the body of the letter.
“[The family] contacted me about their recent interaction with [the attendance officer],” the letter said from HSLDA said.
“I am writing on behalf of the … family as well as all homeschooling families in your district requesting that you take appropriate action to insure that this incident is not repeated,” wrote Michael Donnelly of HSLDA.
He explained the district worker “aggressively interrogated [the mother] as to why she had mailed in the notification,” and the school worker said she had two weeks to decide whether or not the family would be allowed to homeschool.
“Homeschool programs in West Virginia are governed by the provisions of Section 18-8-1(c) of the West Virginia Code. This regulation is specific and local public school districts do not have authority to add to or contradict the provisions of this regulation. West Virginia children are exempt from the compulsory school attendance requirments when they comply with either West Virginia Code 18-8-1(c)(1) or (2) which are distinct, alternative approaches to complying with the statute. Families homeschooling under subsection (2) do not request ‘approval’ from the school district; rather they file a notice of intent,” he informed the school.
He explained to the superintendent that immediately after the family had the conversation with the school employee, they “were contacted by a child protective services worker and were apprised that a report had been made (presumably by [the school worker]) with allegations about the family, including drug addiction, child sex trafficking, and ‘sneaky children.'”
The claims align with the school worker’s social media postings, he said.
“In addition to being astonishingly unprofessional, [the school worker’s] conduct reflects why there are strained relationships among the homeschool community and some school districts. To assert that 80 percent of all homeschooling families are ‘drug addicts’ have truancy charges (and are involved in] childhood sex trafficking, etc.’ is beyond outrageous.”
He asked for a formal apology for the family, as well as “proper training regarding the legal obligations that apply to homeschooling families and, if she is to continue working in this position, that she receive training on how to conduct an appropriately polite conversation.”
That social media posting said: “I wish all the wonderful homeschoolers could come to work with me and see the caliber we have homeschooling. So many wonderful people but there are about 200 to the 50 good that are doing it because they are drug addicts, have truancy charges, childhood sex trafficking, etc …. that I have to approve for homeschool because there is no law in homeschooling. All the wonderful homeschool parents are making sure their children are educated, assessed, life experience to name a few. Sadly, that’s not the majority. Again lobbyist with their interest but no concept of what is really going on on the other side. We have tried talking to lobbyists and the education committee, which are several homeschool parents and they think across the state we attendance directors are exaggerating the conditions of many of our homeschool students.”
Explained HSLDA: “Of course, even public servants are entitled to their political views. The problem arises when those opinions are translated into attacks on the legal rights of homeschool families.”