When a Kansas City family pulled their son out of a public elementary school to homeschool him, the local school referred them to the district attorney's office for truancy. A homeschool advocacy organization intervened, and the school was forced to back down and apologize.
In Kansas, as in several other states, families must register their homes as "private schools" to homeschool their children. The family followed the law exactly, naming and registering their school and notifying their son's elementary school in February that he would be withdrawing.
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But a few months later, in May, the school sent the family a letter notifying them that a social worker would be contacting them about the county truancy program.
"In August," the letter read, "our truancy social worker will contact you to discuss the requirements of the truancy diversion program. You child will be expected to respond to her contact in August."
The family declined to discuss the case for the sake of their privacy, but their attorney, Scott Woodruff of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, described the letter as "threatening." "I'm sure it frightened the family," he said.
Woodruff sent the social worker a letter arguing that the family had taken appropriate measures to register their school and notify the public school, and that the school had no right to refer them to the district attorney's office.
A representative from the school system later called the family to apologize for the baseless referral. As far as Woodruff knows, actual truancy charges were never filed.
Woodruff is one of a number of attorneys for HSLDA, and said that only the more serious truancy cases will come to his desk. He took on this case because of "the threatening tone of the letter," and the inappropriate involvement of a social worker and the district attorney.
"Any time an agency refers something to a district attorney, there's at least a possibility that the district attorney will file criminal charges," Woodruff said. HSLDA stepped in to ensure that the case never got that far.
Woodruff is currently working on about half a dozen cases of families facing truancy actions.
A call to the Wyandotte County Truancy Program, which sent the letter, was not returned.