Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If you homeschool and don't belong to the HSLDA...

...maybe you ought to reconsider. We all say, "That couldn't happen here. It couldn't happen to us." But all it takes is a neighbor or relative with a grudge, or someone who thinks your child may not be getting what he or she needs. This little article came in from the HSLDA's weekly newsletter:

Social Worker: “All Homeschoolers Get Psychological Evaluations”

The Smiths (named changed to protect privacy), an HSLDA member family in Miami, received an unexpected note on their front door from a social worker asking them to call the number on an attached business card. Little did they know, this was the beginning a nightmare they would not soon forget.

The father, a doctor, telephoned as requested. The social worker to whom he spoke asked to meet the family. Dr. Smith requested that the meeting be at a neutral site at a time that would minimize interruptions in his busy work schedule at a medical clinic. The social worker refused, and declared she would arrive at the Smith home the next morning to “enter the home and interview the children.”

Dr. Smith then asked what the allegations were. The social worker refused to answer, but indicated she knew the family homeschooled. Sure enough, when the social worker showed up at the Smiths’ doorstep the next morning, she again refused to explain what the allegations against the family were. This clearly violated federal law, which states that social workers must reveal allegations at the initial time of contact.

The social worker also did not have a search warrant, so Mrs. Smith initially refused to let her enter the family home. This prompted the social worker to call for two police officers.

With this intimidation, Mrs. Smith allowed the social worker to start talking to the children on the front porch. During the first interview, the social worker went so far as to lift up the shirt of the Smiths’ 9-year-old daughter, which greatly embarrassed the girl. Later, the family learned that the allegations had nothing to do with their 9-year-old.

At this point, Mrs. Smith called HSLDA, desperate for help.

Senior Counsel Chris Klicka took the call and asked that the phone be handed to the social worker. The social worker refused to talk with Klicka, so Klicka told Mrs. Smith to put him on speaker phone. Klicka then explained to the social worker how she was violating federal law by refusing to tell the family the allegations against them. Skeptical, the social worker went to her car to call her supervisor and ask if she really had to tell the family the allegations. At least she was out of the house.

Of course, Klicka was right, and the social worker grudgingly went back to the house to explain to Mrs. Smith that the allegation was from an anonymous tip concerning a situation from eight months earlier!

Soon after this, Dr. Smith arrived home, and both parents explained to the social worker that the allegations were mostly false. At the advice of Klicka, the Smiths gave the social worker names and phone numbers of their daughter’s medical doctors who have been treating her for depression. They explained to the social worker that the daughter’s fragile condition was being treated regularly in therapy. They explained that the traumatizing visit from the social worker would make their daughter's condition that much worse.

Klicka then explained to the social worker that the family would be standing on their Fourth Amendment right to not allow the social worker to enter their home or talk with the children individually. While the police officer agreed to an interview with the children in the parents’ presence in the family’s driveway, the social worker refused. The social worker treated the situation like an emergency, even when she knew the situation was eight months old and the daughter was under medical care.

To make matters worse, the social worker had one of the police officers move toward Dr. Smith, and she told the officer to handcuff him so she could remove his children from the home.

After being threatened to this extreme, the family felt they had no choice but to let the social worker into their home to interview the children, who were now crying and wailing. During the interview, the social worker would not let the witness the family provided be present. She also proceeded to lift the shirts and clothing of each child, even those whom the allegations did not concern.

The social worker found nothing—but said still she wanted the family to “undergo a formal psycho-social assessment.”

When the Smiths asked “Why?” the social worker replied, “This is done in all investigations with homeschooled children!”

Needless to say, the Smiths declined the assessments, and relied on HSLDA to take care of the rest.

Klicka sent the social worker a letter outlining all the ways in which she had broken the law:

  1. By entering the home and interviewing the children through intimidation;
  2. By not letting them know the allegations at the initial visit; and
  3. By interviewing children whom the allegations did not concern.

Klicka explained that the case should be closed immediately, as there was no evidence against the family. He also explained that the daughter’s issues with depression were being handled adequately by medical experts and psychologists familiar with the situation.

The family has not been hassled by this social worker since, and the case is closed. HSLDA is considering a civil rights suit.

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