A homeschool family in Missouri is taking a so-called “truancy court” to the state’s Supreme Court over an allegedly fraudulent “summons” that threatened to take legal custody of their two children if they did not appear before the judge.
After withdrawing their six-year-old and eight-year-old children from Ava Public Schools to educate them at home, the parents received a seemingly official letter from the “court” that alarmed them to seek legal counsel.
But the letter immediately raised the suspicion of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Vice President for LItigation and Development Jim Mason.
“We learned that so-called ‘truancy courts’ are not really courts at all,” Mason explained. “it is a term used around the state for voluntary diversion programs designed to keep kids in school without formally prosecuting them.”
However, the deceitfully authentic-looking appearance of the summons drew the concern of the legal expert.
“But this family received a formal-looking ‘summons’ that even I, an experienced homeschool lawyer, originally believed to be legitimate,” Mason noted. “The ‘summons’ threatened to take legal custody of the children if the parents didn’t show up.”
Believing that the allegedly illegitimate summons would be cleared up with with a simple petition, HSLDA was quick to take action.
“[The] Court of Missouri asked Circuit Court Judge R. Craig Carter’s lawyer to respond to HSLDA’s petition, in which we asked the Court to halt a hearing in ‘truancy court,’” Mason said.
What’s the problem?
However, the Christian legal group soon discovered that the state’s legal system was not as quick to identify and call out the illegitimacy of the threat made to the homeschool family.
“At 10 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 1, we learned that the Court of Appeals had denied our petition,” Mason continued. “The next morning, we electronically filed the same petition in the Supreme Court of Missouri, asking it to halt the Monday morning hearing.”
In addition to urging the state’s high court to rectify the current situation, HSLDA attorneys also requested that it would take action to ensure that such allegedly illegal demands would never be made again of the family or any other Missouri homeschoolers.
“We also asked the Court to put a stop to the local policy of ‘summoning’ parents who withdraw their children from public school to homeschool them,” the seasoned lawyer from the Purcellville, Virginia-based nonprofit organization shared.
Follow your own laws …
Mason also directed court officials in the Show Me State to closely look at a Missouri statute that validated HSLDA’s argument about the attempted illegal power grab by the state. Words cited from the state law worked to prove that the so-called truancy court was acting above and beyond its own authority.
“[A] declaration of enrollment to provide a home school shall not be cause to investigate violations of section 167.031 (compulsory attendance),” the statute reads.
The legalese was interpreted in layman’s terms:
“[T]he ‘summons’ to truancy court is not only in excess of the court’s jurisdiction; the ‘policy’ that animates it was anticipated by the Legislature and has been expressly forbidden,” HSLDA explained.
To ensure that the entire ordeal is quickly cleared up and brought to a conclusion, the homeschool defense group made sure that it established a physical presence in the matter.
“HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff flew to Missouri [last] Sunday to appear for the family on Monday morning,” Mason reported. “As Woodruff waited outside the courtroom, Judge Carter came out and said that the Supreme Court had called him that morning and that the hearing was ‘continued’ (postponed indefinitely).”
However, after a quick turnaround in events, HSLDA is confident and hopeful that the bulling will come to a close this Monday.
“On Tuesday afternoon, a Springfield law firm notified the Supreme Court that it represented Judge Carter,” Mason added. “A few hours later, the Supreme Court requested Judge Carter’s lawyer to respond to the petition by 4:30 p.m. [on] Monday, April 11.”
Copyright American Family News. Reprinted with permission.