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Homeschooling mom wards off state’s attempts to seize children

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A mother homeschooling her children with learning disabilities is victorious after a year-long battle against the state of Colorado, which sought to remove her children from her home and send them to public school.

In the fall of 2011, a social services worker showed up at the door of Josslyn Kittinger (real name withheld to protect privacy) to investigate her ability to properly educate her special needs children. The uninvited visit was attributed to an anonymous tip from a neighbor complaining that Kittinger was unfit to instruct her children and that they would receive a better education through public school.

And the reason for the unwarranted intrusion that would last for months on end?

Prosecutors, Kittinger's neighbors and the social services investigator all persistently argued that the mother had no right to homeschool her own children because their learning disabilities required state instruction.

But is this a right that can be questioned or taken away? Not according to Home School Legal Defense Association staff attorney Michael P. Donnelly, Esq., who also serves as its director of international relations.

Donnelly

"Many families homeschool their children who have learning disabilities because they find that the children's needs are better met in a one-on-one homeschool setting -- research shows that this is true," Donnelly contends. "It is intolerable that someone would question a family's right to homeschool simply because their children have a learning disability."

However, this contention shared with Ms. Kittinger did not deter further unwanted state involvement for long.

License for home invasion?

Even though the investigating social worker left after the initial visitation -- when Kittinger followed Donnelly's recommendation on the phone and cordially requested the state agent to leave -- a return visit would soon follow.

A few days after the initial visitation -- going on nothing more than a neighbor's comment and a drive-by in front of the Kittinger's house -- the social worker made an unfounded and fallacious determination that the family was preparing to escape to another state. Reporting the unsubstantiated findings to a local court, the investigator pursued and attained a court order, granting legal authority to remove the children from the Kittenger home and take them into state custody in order to send them to public school.

But instead of proceeding to carry out the verbal order, the social worker allowed Ms. Kittinger to retain custody of her children for the time being, on the condition she prove that she was legally homeschooling her children and was never intending on fleeing the state of Colorado. Following the protocol that ensues the issuance of a court order, a lawsuit was filed against the homeschooling mother, with a state prosecutor alleging that she was guilty of educational neglect of her children.

Unsuitable suit

Moving forward in the suit after attaining legal representation from HSLDA local counsel James Rouse, Ms. Kittinger was able to have the social worker's court order nullified in the initial court hearing -- after showing that according to Colorado state law, she was homeschooling legally with an independent school. This is one of the two ways children can be homeschooled in the Centennial State; the other requires legal guardians to file notifications directly with school districts on an annual basis.

The early victory, however, did not convince the state prosecutor to drop the case, which protracted to three hearings in the fall of 2011, and then a five-day trial, in which Donnelly defended Ms. Kittinger in December and the following March.

After an expert witness, Steven Duvall, Ph.D., provided evidence that Ms. Kittinger was providing a satisfactory level of education for her children under state law on the trial's first day, and just hours before the second trial date in March, the social worker dismissed the lawsuit. From his numerous visitations to the Kittinger home, he concluded that there was no proof of educational neglect, and he proceeded to persuade his prosecutor to concede the argument against the family and settle the case.

HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Assn.)A proper defense

Even though this case came to a positive conclusion in regards to parents' rights to educate their children, many parents, when standing alone, are unable to counter challenges brought on by the state when it vies for the control of children's instruction.

"This victory is important for all homeschooling parents, because it strengthens the idea that all children have the right to be homeschooled and the need for HSLDA," Donnelly asserts. "How would this single mother have defended herself?

It is contended that the odds are against homeschoolers when government officials go after them to compel attendance in public schools, as Donnelly is skeptical that Ms. Kittinger would have fared well if left to her own devices without a powerful legal counsel geared to wage an all-out war against state interference.

"The resources needed for this were far beyond her own means, and most court-appointed defenders simply do not have the experience or sympathy to aggressively defend a mom homeschooling in this situation," concluded Donnelly, who along with his wife, homeschools their seven children. "I consider it a privilege to have been allowed to defend this mom who was doing what I believe was indeed best for her children."

source

by on Jan. 22, 2013 at 7:47 AM
Replies (31-40):
lga1965
by Ruby Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM
2 moms liked this

 

Quoting LucyMom08:

It seems like there is some information missing from this article...

 I agree.

Here's what I wonder: Did the neighbors know something that only a neighbor who has the opportunity to observe could know? Can this homeschooling Mom prove she actually knows how to home school? Is there something we don't know?

I agree that it is everyone's choice to home school. BUT are these children being educated or merely protected from others and sheilded from the variety of viewpoints that are introduced in Public Schools?

 And, are parents really so thoroughly trained and educated that they really CAN decide what is best for their children and ignore those in the Education Systems and their advice? My worry is that a Mom with barely a high school education will ,on the basis of her own bias against schools, decide she knows more than Educators and keep her kids home, theoretically,but not actually,  "home schooling" them.

 

Meadowchik
by Silver Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 10:56 AM

 This week, after months of agonizing deliberation, we decided to again homeschool our daughter.  In French law, as we live in France, it is a family choice and can be done during the school year.  We are required to notify regional authorities and the mayor, within 8 days of the change.  Yet, when I called to give the school a courteous head's up, the secretary told me we couldn't do it.  She forwarded my call to the principal, who of course, affirmed our right to do so. 

I share this to point out that some people do assume a great deal sometimes, without basis.  Bureaucratic zealotry can get very ugly and dangerous.

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Jan. 22, 2013 at 11:25 AM


Quoting LoganTroyMom:

i don't homeschool but i support those that choose to. there should be ways of making sure parents are doing it right but not like this!!!

Agreed

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 11:46 AM

That is scary.

AMBG825
by on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:13 PM
1 mom liked this

 This also illustrates exactly why you should ask for a warrant when a CPS worker comes knocking on your door. I'm sure she thought she had nothing to hide. She was following the law. Her kids were taken care of and probably better educated than the kids in the public school system ....particularly the kids like hers with special needs. Had this woman asked for a warrant before ever talking to the worker, the case probably wouldn't have gotten this far.

MeAndTommyLee
by Gold Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Dare I laugh out loud.  This is exactly why some of these parents are playing right into the hands of their perspective districts.  They have no idea how many dollars there little darlings are providing the schools on the daily basis.  And it your child is a special needs case, it's like hitting the proverbial jackpot in any Vegas casino for the child. 

Quoting candlegal:

some places get paid by each child that is in school that day.  That is one of the reasons parents now have to go to court if their child misses too many days. The school misses all that money.

Quoting AutymsMommy:

 

My district gets my tax dollars regardless of that I homeschool. I assume, by your comment, that some places do not do this?

Quoting candlegal:

I think it really comes down to money more than anything.   Home schooling is increasing by about 10% a year and has been for many years.   For each child being homeschooled, how many thousands is the school system losing?  I know in Texas home schooled children are completely off the grid, which is a very good thing.

Quoting ramonafrog:

Wow. Good for her. I hate that the gov has so much control over what should always be a personal choice. I don't HS but I have several friends who do for this same reason. There are just some kids who need HS'ing rather than public.


 

 



 

kailu1835
by Ruby Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM
Just one more example of the god complex of the state. Those are HER children, not the state's. It is not up to the state to decide what is the best schooling environment for the children, it is the mother's. I'm glad she won. I hope it serves as an example.
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MrsSamMerlotte
by Bronze Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:26 PM
Bump for later
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cjsbmom
by Lois Lane on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM

 I don't know if it's happening in all states, but here in PA, the dept. of ed is fining public schools who lose special needs children to charter schools, cyber schools and homeschooling. The dept. expects the public school to do whatever it has to do to lure the students back to public school. That very well could be what is going on here.

As the mother of a special needs child myself, I have often been very disenchanted with the public school system. I don't blame this woman for wanting to homeschool and applaud her for standing up for her right to do so.

Quoting candlegal:

I think it really comes down to money more than anything.   Home schooling is increasing by about 10% a year and has been for many years.   For each child being homeschooled, how many thousands is the school system losing?  I know in Texas home schooled children are completely off the grid, which is a very good thing.

Quoting ramonafrog:

Wow. Good for her. I hate that the gov has so much control over what should always be a personal choice. I don't HS but I have several friends who do for this same reason. There are just some kids who need HS'ing rather than public.


 

kailu1835
by Ruby Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:31 PM
1 mom liked this
None of the answers to your questions matter. It is her right to homeschool, regardless of her reasons for doing so. You do not need a college degree to follow a curriculum. I know that's so totally un-PC, and I'm sure the teachers' unions would love to have my head over such a statement, but regardless, it is true. I was homeschooled by mom mom prior to being told she had to put me into public school, and I was 2 years ahead of the other kindergarteners. I went to a coop school for 7th, 9th, and 10th grades, and the parents taught the classes. None had any degrees. When I graduated, it was at the age of 16, and I was still well ahead of my peers.

Quoting lga1965:

 


Quoting LucyMom08:

It seems like there is some information missing from this article...

 I agree.


Here's what I wonder: Did the neighbors know something that only a neighbor who has the opportunity to observe could know? Can this homeschooling Mom prove she actually knows how to home school? Is there something we don't know?


I agree that it is everyone's choice to home school. BUT are these children being educated or merely protected from others and sheilded from the variety of viewpoints that are introduced in Public Schools?


 And, are parents really so thoroughly trained and educated that they really CAN decide what is best for their children and ignore those in the Education Systems and their advice? My worry is that a Mom with barely a high school education will ,on the basis of her own bias against schools, decide she knows more than Educators and keep her kids home, theoretically,but not actually,  "home schooling" them.


 

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