Home School Legal Defense Association Sues New York City for Allegedly Mistreating Families

Published February 7, 2017

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City public schools “over their systematic mistreatment of homeschooling families.”

The lawsuit follows HSLDA’s involvement in a case in which the city sent Child Protective Services (CPS) to a homeschooling mother’s home after she legally withdrew her son from public school.

In 2016, Tanya Acevedo removed her son from a New York City public school to homeschool him. HSLDA reports on its website Acevedo “had done everything right—filing paperwork, carefully following all the rules of New York City.” Shortly thereafter, a CPS agent visited her in her home and told her she had been reported for “educational neglect” resulting from her son’s absence from school. Acevedo enlisted the help of an HSLDA attorney, who persuaded the case worker to close the investigation.

“The injustice against homeschooling families in New York City can no longer be tolerated,” HSLDA’s website states. “On December 5, HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City public schools over their systematic mistreatment of homeschooling families. We are asking for money damages and for a court to order the New York City bureaucracy to simply follow New York’s homeschooling regulation.”

‘The Last Straw’

Jim Mason, HSLDA vice president of litigation, says Acevedo’s case is far from the first instance of New York City public schools harassing homeschoolers.

“What happened to Tanya was the last straw,” Mason said. “Before this, there had been a string of what seemed to be bureaucratic oversights. People would fail to receive responses to their requests or letters. But this invasion of Tanya’s privacy was beyond the pale.”

‘Entirely Contrary to the Law’

In New York State, which has some of the oldest homeschooling laws in the country, a parent who withdraws a child from school has 14 days to inform the district of the decision.

Mason says in the case of the Acevedo family, the New York public school system ignored the law.

“We discovered that New York public schools believe that you need to have their permission to withdraw your student from their system and begin homeschooling,” Mason said. “That’s entirely contrary to the law. Tanya both withdrew her child and gave the district notice on the same day. Everyone was on the same page. They have no cause to investigate you or even mark your child absent. The district’s actions show that they are completely misreading the law.”

‘It’s Private Schooling’

Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, says governments should give homeschooling as much respect as other educational alternatives.

“It’s private schooling,” Ray said. “They don’t take public money, and the academic research shows that students schooled at home do the same, if not better, academically, socially, and emotionally than their counterparts at public schools.”

Historically, homeschooling is the norm and government schools the exception, Ray says.

“People forget that being schooled at home was the norm for most of human history,” Ray said. “It’s important to remember that institutionalized schooling with educational professionals didn’t become the norm until about 1900. Along comes back home education, revived in the 1980s, and people don’t know what to make of it. It can and does work.”

Alexandra Hudson ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.