America’s premier homeschool advocacy organization is suing New York City after a homeschool mother was investigated by child protective services for “educational neglect” because the city’s education department failed to record paperwork showing that her son was being homeschooled.
The Home School Legal Defense Association announced in December that it filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education, alleging that the department’s Central Office of Home Schooling is systemically mishandling homeschooling paperwork and failing to record students being withdrawn from public schools.
Listed in the lawsuit as a plaintiff is Tanya Acevedo, a new homeschool mother who was subjected to a 60-day investigation from New York state’s Administration for Children Services last year after her son’s former public school continued to mark him as “absent” even though she took all the steps legally necessary to officially withdraw her son from public school and notify the district that he was being homeschooled.
Even though Acevedo sent a notice of intent to homeschool her son to the superintendent via certified mail, it was never registered in the central office, therefore, her son accrued unexcused absences. After so many weeks of absences, Acevedo’s son was referred to a truancy officer and social services for investigation.
But as HSLDA staff attorney T.J. Schmidt told The Christian Post on Tuesday, the Acevedos aren’t the only ones who’ve been affected by the “ineptitude” of the central office.
“Before the Acevedo family, I probably dealt with nearly a dozen situations in the past six months,” Schmidt said. “This is a regular situation that comes up.”
Although the HSLDA was able to step in and assure the social services investigator that Acevedo had completed her required paperwork, she, like other parents in the past, could have been forced to defend herself from the charge of “educational neglect” in family court.
“We have been able to, in most cases, satisfy the social worker that the family has done what they are legally required to do and keep them out of court,” Schmidt explained. “But the next possible step would be, and this has happened where missing paperwork has resulted in the family being brought into family court and have to appear downtown to answer a report of educational neglect. I had that situation happen about two or three years ago.”
“The family had done everything they were legally required to do but because social services is being told by the central office of homeschooling ‘No, this child has not registered,’ they then say this is educational neglect,” he continued. “Usually what happens in that situation is the courts will order the family to be supervised for six months to make sure they are in compliance and then it could be dismissed.”
Now the HSLDA is calling the New York judicial system to issue injunctive relief and force the education department to follow the state’s homeschooling law as it is written.
“The law basically is an objective standard, not subjective. Basically, if you do this, this must happen. Unfortunately, central office in recent history has not been treating it that way,” Schmidt said.
“The ultimate issue in this situation is that when a child is withdrawn to be taught at home, the central office of homeschooling has been basically treating it like an approval that you have to get to homeschool. The timing in response has just not followed the timing that is required under the homeschooling regulation in New York state.”
Although the lawsuit was filed in December, the education department had until Tuesday to respond to the HSLDA lawsuit. However, the city filed an extension, which could push the deadline for a response back another few weeks.
Along with Acevedo, the lawsuit lists the New York homeschooling support group King’s Choice LEAH as a plaintiff to incorporate a class of homeschool families that such an injunctive relief would positively affect.
SOURCE: The Christian Post – Samuel Smith