Courts Back Families on Searches

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Recently, a home-schooling family had this experience with government officials. A 15-year-old home-schooled boy went to a police station and complained about his adoptive parents. The police and social services interviewed the boy about the restrictions his parents placed on him, including not being able to have a cell phone or a truck, and denying his request to attend public school.

In the end, all parties, including the boy, recognized that no crimes had been committed and that the matter should be dropped.

Unfortunately, it did not end here. An attorney for social services decided the investigation had to be completed, which included a search of the family's home, and further questioning regarding the family's beliefs and lifestyle.

The Home School Legal Defense Association intervened, and within 24 hours provided a recent ruling from the Superior Court that required social services be able to show probable cause for the searches and interviews to take place. In other words, there had to be some credible evidence of abuse or neglect before such an action could take place. The investigation was then terminated.

This type of situation is all too common. HSLDA regularly defends families when government officials overstep their bounds. The actions by school officials to make home visits to evaluate home education had a chilling effect on home-schooling in the early days. HSLDA, on behalf of home-schooling families nationwide, opposed this practice because it is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by government officials. Many home-schooling families experienced this form of harassment from government officials over their choice of education.

The earliest and most prominent victory in this area was the Pustell case in Massachusetts, which was decided unanimously by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in favor of the Pustells in 1999. …