Truancy: What Happened
Late last April, THSC member Jennifer Darnell reached out to us because the local school district was pressing truancy charges against Jennifer and her daughter, Kathryn Payne. Even though Jennifer had already withdrawn her daughter from public school via the proper paperwork, the school was still pressing charges for missed days of school due to medical issues. Despite the many times in the past where the school allowed Kathryn’s absences for the exact same medical issue, once she chose to home school, the district pressed charges for truancy.
The issue was referred to the local district attorney’s office where they continued to press charges for the accumulation of the days missed and requested that Jennifer send information to their office about her home school situation. The DA inquired about curriculum, lesson planning, and keeping records. In addition to this, the DA also asked if they were involved in any home school groups.
How THSC Responded to the Situation
When Jennifer tried to explain that state law did not require home school parents to report any of the requested information to the state, the DA’s only response was to give her the email address of their clerk and ask her to send in the requested information. Jennifer was then informed that her presence was required at a follow-up meeting with the DA at the end of May.
THSC responded with a letter to the District Attorney’s office and the school’s office. This letter stated that Jennifer and Kathryn were in fact valid THSC members and were “in full compliance with the laws of the state of Texas regarding academic subjects, health, and attendance.”
Longstanding Texas Educators Association (TEA) policy, developed with THSC in the ‘90s, allows a family to verify they are compliant with home school laws by providing a “letter of assurance” to the district. However, the school continued to press charges.
How the DA Responded to THSC
In response to these continued accusations, THSC sent a follow-up letter to the DA’s office outlining the three primary problems with the truancy claim:
- The family has the authority to home school under the Texas Supreme Court decision Leeper v. Arlington ISD.
- The family was in total compliance with TEA policy.
- There was proven discrimination by the district when they allowed medically required absences until the family chose to home school.
THSC then called the District Attorney, notifying him of the issue and asking that he review the letter and speak to his staff.
Five days later, the case was dismissed.
The District Attorney thanked THSC for notifying him of the issue and requested more information on home schooling to provide his staff so home school families are protected in the future. At their request, THSC invited the entire DA’s office to attend our Continuing Legal Education seminar this fall where we teach judges and attorneys the pertinent areas of home school law.
How You Can Protect Your Family
THSC intervenes on behalf of numerous member families every year, communicating with state agencies and local authorities, and educating judges and attorneys around the state on the issue of home schooling. These letters have helped countless families to work through issues with local, state, and federal government.
Consider joining THSC today to take advantage of this member benefit and so many others. Writing advocacy letters is just one of the many ways that THSC is Keeping Texas Families Free!