Government officials in Ohio are pursuing criminal charges against two homeschooling families for allegedly failing to file homeschooling paperwork.
If the parents are found guilty, they could face decades of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
The families, whose names and locations are being withheld by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), have been charged by local government officials with contributing to the delinquency of minors for failing to turn in paperwork to the local government school district by the required deadline.
HSLDA is providing legal representation for the families in their respective local juvenile court cases. According to HSLDA, one trial is scheduled to begin on May 31, and the status of the other case is unknown.
Setting Different Standards?
Melanie Elsey, a legislative liaison for Christian Home Educators of Ohio, says the government officials may be misreading the state’s homeschooling laws.
“Homeschooling in Ohio is very easy to do,” Elsey said. “However, I believe the two districts where these two families are may be applying a different set of regulations to homeschooling families. There are only six regulations covering homeschooling in the state, so all you really have to do is turn in the paperwork and refile every year and let the district know your intentions.”
Michael Donnelly, a staff attorney with HSLDA, says most states do not have deadlines for filing a notice of intent.
“Most states do not have specific deadlines for when parents must submit notification,” Donnelly said. “Schools start at different times. People start homeschooling mid-year and move into the state, so deadlines create certain related problems.”
Districts Applying ‘Undue Force’
Donnelly says the government authorities are being unnecessarily rigid.
“Authorities in these jurisdictions should have handled these cases differently,” Donnelly said. “Instead of communicating with the family, these school districts have applied undue force for unreasonable justification. These charges are meritless, and we hope the court will agree with us.”
Donnelly says the government’s prosecution of these cases sends the wrong message to homeschooling families thinking about moving to Ohio.
“This behavior shows there continue to be authorities who are unable or unwilling to enforce proper laws relating to home education,” Donnelly said. “This demonstrates a level of either hostility or incompetence that should not be accepted. Families in Ohio have a right to be treated with dignity and respect and not criminally charged over minor paperwork issues.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.