A Child Protective Services agent in Minnesota has been caught trying to apply a mandatory school attendance law for all children age 7 and older to a 6-year-old.
Worse, the agent forced the 6-year-old’s parents to court to explain why they were not complying with a law that didn’t apply.
The report comes from the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has withheld the names of the principals in the situation.
Dave Dentel, who manages content for the website of the world’s largest organization supporting homeschoolers, explained how the “legal crisis” developed.
First the Minnesota parents removed their 6-year-old from public school kindergarten because of the “negative influences” they saw at the school.
“The parents informally told officials that they intended to teach their child at home, which was appropriate because state law does not require a formal notice of homeschooling until after a child turns 7,” he explained.
But when a CPS investigator arrived on their doorstep, orders followed shortly that they appear before a judge, facing charges of “failing to comply with the state’s compulsory school attendance law.”
Explained HSLDA, “The CPS investigator mistakenly insisted that the parents needed to put their child back in school or file a homeschooling notice.”
“She was the only one who took that position,” said Peter Kamakawiwoole, the HSLDA staff attorney who assisted local counsel with the case. “We don’t know why, other than that she misread the statute.”
The HSLDA helped the family work with a local lawyer to assemble the information the judge would need, including of course an explanation of the state’s homeschool law.
“Our memo pointed out that the state law does not require parents to file a homeschooling notice until the October after a child turns 7, and also that Minnesota’s statute is so specific, especially when compared to the law in some states, that there should be no question of its intent,” the HSLDA explained.
The judge, who could have ordered a variety of mandates, such as additional court appearances or further visits from CPS, eventually dismissed the case.
“This was primarily an issue of educating folks,” Kamakawiwoole said, “and fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. It highlights the fact that even though homeschooling is growing, there are still people who don’t understand how it works or understand their state law.”
He also explained the family did exactly what they were supposed to do, communicating clearly with school officials when they decided to withdraw their child.