A social worker in West Virginia appeared at the door of a homeschool family’s house announcing to the mother, “I’m here to investigate unsocialized homeschoolers.”
Shocked by the nature of the visit, Amy (last name withheld for anonymity) was not prepared to respond to an allegation based in a “tired homeschool myth” that many thought had been dismissed long ago.
“When the social worker stopped by this afternoon, I asked her what the accusations are, and she said: ‘Well, it looks like we’ve got a report here of unsocialized homeschoolers,’” the homeschool mom notified an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The state worker went on to request a formal interview with the mother , but she delayed committing to date and time by telling her she wanted to speak with her husband and her attorney before moving on to the “next step” of the investigation. The following day, after getting legal advice from HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly, Amy went ahead with the scheduled interview with the social worker.
After hearing from the HSLDA member about the peculiar accusations, Donnelly did a double-take, asking Amy, “Did you say she is investigating ‘unsocialized homeschoolers?’” Getting confirmation, the attorney was amazed.
“It’s pretty unusual for a social worker to come right out and say that this is what they are concerned about,” Donnelly pointed out. “Here we are in 2016, with over two million homeschoolers in the United States, and social services agencies are still investigating homeschooling families for concerns about ‘socialization’! But this isn’t the first call we’ve received about this, and I doubt it will be the last.”
Tip of the iceberg?
HSLDA’s legal team gave the homeschool mom the legal consultation she needed to successfully confront the state’s allegations, but figured that with its past experience concerning social workers’ investigations, more accusations were to come.
“I advised Amy to contact the social worker and tell her that, under state law, lack of socialization is not a legitimate cause for allegations of abuse or neglect,” Donnelly shared. “However, I cautioned Amy that sometimes social workers don’t reveal everything they’re investigating, even though federal law and most state law requires them to do so at their first contact.”
Preparing the homeschooling mom for the worst, the attorney specializing in constitutional law told her to expect more allegations in her next visit.
“So it was possible that there were other allegations that had yet to be disclosed,” he continued.“ Amy said that she thought the allegations emanated from a difficult neighbor who had moved into the area recently.”
After meeting with the social worker for the formal investigation, Amy informed Donnelly that he was right.
“I called her just like you advised,” the homeschool mom told her attorney. “And it was just like you said — there were more allegations.”
The homeschooler then informed Donnelly of the other complaints.
“She said that in addition to the unsocialized homeschoolers, the allegations included that our back yard was a mess, and that there was no way there could be enough beds in our house for our 10 children,” Amy told her lawyer.
Victory at hand
Despite the threatening line of questioning, the homeschool mom did not panic, according to Donnelly.
“Amy further informed me that the social worker had told her that she understood that these kinds of investigations could be unsettling,” the Purcellville-based attorney reported. “The social worker had promised that she wasn’t like some of her co-workers who went ‘out for the kill’ on investigations. Based on these assurances and the advice I had given her, Amy felt she was equipped to handle the situation.”
Finding that the contentious neighbor’s claims were baseless, the social worker informed the home instructor that she had little to worry about.
“After the follow-up visit and discussion with Amy, the social worker told her that she had a ‘nice-looking family,’ that everything seemed fine, and that she intended to close the case,” Donnelly shared.
Gaining confidence from her legal consultation with HSLDA, Amy emphasized how important it is for homeschoolers to be informed and ready for whatever the state throws their way.
“I see this is an increasing problem, with CPS [Child Protective Services] investigating things that aren’t really issues that should be investigated,” the concerned parent expressed. “As a regular person, you just don’t know what to do. Even if there isn’t anything going on, you still have to go through the same process.”
HSLDA attorneys agree that homeschool parents need to stay informed and prepared to defend their children from the state’s intrusion to take away their parental rights.
“It is striking how many people are not aware of their rights,” Donnelly stressed. “And sadly, too few social workers or government officials actively seek to protect the rights of citizens they are investigating.”