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A question of truancy in PA

 
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Lilly
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Joined: 08 Oct 2012
Posts: 3
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:34 pm    Post subject: A question of truancy in PA Reply with quote

Hi,

I hope someone can offer some help for me. This is our second year homeschooling our children. I filled out and mailed the affidavits for each of my kids. The school board received them and the rest, as they say, was history. Well this year it started off rough. First the school didn't accept our portfolios, said that we were missing the resource list, and to hurry up and submit them so that the kids wouldn't be marked for truancy.

I should point out the fact that the principal has my cell number and home number. She never called me letting know about the missing resource list, I had to call her after not hearing from her for a week. When I called she sounded surprised, then informed me that she was about to mail me a certified letter explaining what I still needed to submit to make the portfolios complete (i.e. the resource list). I received the certified letter the next day. This was October 19th, I quickly got the resource letters together and headed to the school with them.

I turned them into the principle, then asked her for the affidavits. Again, she looked surprised, informing me that she had no idea that she was to give them to me. I told her that the school board told me to pick the papers up from her. After confirming my information she tells me that as of the moment my children were considered truant. This was a surprise to me since they told me that I couldn't submit the affidavits until the portfolios where given the "OK".

But hearing this I rushed home - because she told me that she needed to print up the affidavits and didn't have the time at the moment - printed the ones that I have on my PC. Filled them out and dropped them in the mail. Again this was all on October 19th. I haven't heard a work from anyone since, no returned affidavits or anything. So today I get my mail and to my surprise and horror, my husband had to go to court now, we have been turned in for truancy.

What should he bring with him to court to prove that we have been doing school work, and that we submitted the affidavits? Basically it's our word against theirs, and I have a feeling that the court will side with them. Neither of us can afford to go to jail for 30 days, nor to pay a fine of $500. Plus, my husband is in school, he can't miss his classes. Do we have any hope of proving that we have been railroaded?
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askPauline
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Joined: 15 Nov 2012
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:55 pm    Post subject: Re: A question of truancy in PA Reply with quote

Oh dear, this is a complicated one.

It's late, and I can't write a long reply.

I strongly suggest you print out a copy of the PA Homeschool Law - see my web site at www.askpauline.com for a link to it. There is a process that you and the district have to go through, and it sounds like both of you have missed some steps. See my due process page for details, but basically once they've sent the certified letter, you have 20 days to submit anything that's missing - in this case, what you are calling the resource list, by which I assume they mean the "log of reading materials". Once you've turned it in, the district has a choice of either accepting it and dropping the issue, or sending another certified letter setting up a hearing. ASSUMING ALL STEPS HAVE BEEN FOLLOWED CORRECTLY, TRUANCY SHOULD NOT BE PART OF DUE PROCESS. It only comes into play if you don't submit the additional documentation - which you did.

IF they didn't like what you submitted, then they were supposed to send another certified letter setting up a hearing. This is NOT supposed to be about truancy - there should be no threats of jail time or fines as this is not how the homeschool law requires them to proceed. They CAN require that your child go to school for a year if the hearing goes badly for you - READ THE LAW to understand what they are SUPPOSED to be doing and be prepared to articulate it.

I would do everything you can at this point to AVOID going to court if possible - do your research, get your ducks in a row, and then call them to see what you can work out.

1) You might want to call the home education liaison at the Pa Dept of Ed in Harrisburg, and run this by her. Sometimes she can run interference if a district is not proceeding correctly.

2) You might want to call the district, and see exactly what it is they think you're missing. If they didn't get the affidavits, then taking in another copy might be all they need. You may not have a record of having mailed them, but if nothing else the person who notarized them should have a record of having done so.

3) READ THE LAW. SEVERAL TIMES. HAVE YOUR DH DO IT TOO. It will help you to see what you have done right, what you may have done wrong, and what the district has done right and wrong. This will help in court.

4) Honestly, if this goes to a hearing, I would see if you can get a lawyer at this point. There are a few legal options listed on my site.

5) YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED TRUANT just because your port was missing something. There is a process the district must follow. Truancy is not part of it, unless you fail to address the concerns outlined in the certified letter. You'll see what I mean when you read the law.

SOME NOTES:
1) Your district did not need to call you about the missing log of reading materials. If you are missing something, they are supposed to send a certified letter, which they did.

2) It's not really the school's job to provide the affidavits. In fact, school-provided affidavits are often not worded well. It's better to read the law, read a few affidavits that other homeschoolers have used in the past, and decide which version fits your interpretation of what the law requires and what you want to attest to. There are several versions at my site.

3) You should consider bringing to court
- a copy of the law, that you've read and re-read until you understand it.
- copies of your affidavits from this year and last year. and any proof you have that you turned them in. (I realize you may have no proof - do your best.)
-Your children's portfolios - the district should have returned them to you. If they didn't, again, this is out of compliance on their part.
- Any additional information, samples of work, etc. that you can pull together, just in case they are needed/useful.
- A written explanation, from your point of view, of what happened, and what should have happened, and what you are willing to do to address their concerns, that you can share with the judge etc.

This is all off the top of my head, and I am not a lawyer. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Again, I suggest getting legal advice at this point. Above all, READ THE LAW, so that you know what it requires even if they don't. Good luck. Email me if you have questions - I'll do what I can to help, though I will have limited time the next few days.
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askPauline
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Joined: 15 Nov 2012
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:27 am    Post subject: Re: A question of truancy in PA Reply with quote

Lilly wrote:
Hi,

I hope someone can offer some help for me. This is our second year homeschooling our children. I filled out and mailed the affidavits for each of my kids. The school board received them and the rest, as they say, was history. Well this year it started off rough. First the school didn't accept our portfolios, said that we were missing the resource list, and to hurry up and submit them so that the kids wouldn't be marked for truancy.



Just reading this again this morning and wondering -
when did you turn in the portfolios? You know they are due June 30, right? So was it the district who was slow here, waiting until October to send their certified letter letting you know they needed a log of reading materials? Or was it you who was slow in turning them in? Obviously, if it was the district who was slow, that looks better for you. But if it was YOU who was slow, then you're in a much more difficult position. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "the school didn't accept our portfolios".

In addition, the "school board" really has nothing to do with the process - generally speaking, the law requires you to deal with the superintendent.

Lilly wrote:
After confirming my information she tells me that as of the moment my children were considered truant. This was a surprise to me since they told me that I couldn't submit the affidavits until the portfolios where given the "OK".


Is this something they told you, or something you assumed? That is, did they say you couldn't submit an affidavit until the portfolios were dealt with?

I want you to know that the vast majority of home educators in PA turn in their portfolio (which is due June 30), and their affidavit (which is due Aug 1), at the same time. They do not wait until the district has returned their portfolio - they submit both together. IF the district said you could not do this, they were taking an unusual approach. This is especially the case if they had not looked at your portfolio by Aug 1, when the affidavits were due.

Lilly wrote:

But hearing this I rushed home - because she told me that she needed to print up the affidavits and didn't have the time at the moment - printed the ones that I have on my PC. Filled them out and dropped them in the mail. Again this was all on October 19th. I haven't heard a work from anyone since, no returned affidavits or anything. So today I get my mail and to my surprise and horror, my husband had to go to court now, we have been turned in for truancy.


It's not clear to me whether you got the affidavits notarized? They MUST be notarized - if not, then that is a serious problem. If they are not notarized, then truancy WOULD be an appropriate route for them to follow (rather than the due process in the law). (Obviously, a phone call would have been nicer!)

Obviously, it would have been better for you to submit the affidavits in person and get a receipt for them - lesson learned for next year. And it would have been wise to follow up with the school if you didn't hear from them.

Again - I'm not sure when your court date is. It would be wise for you to read the law and learn what is required of you and of the school district. I would also call the Pa Dept of Ed (info on my web site). After that, I strongly suggest you call the district and find out WHY they are still considering your family out of compliance with the law, and what they want you to do to remedy the situation.

I'm hoping you can avoid serious problems as a result of all of this, but the key to doing this is to READ THE LAW, so you understand where you went wrong and where the district went wrong, and so you can assure the court that you will remedy any issues and comply with the law in the future.

Good luck.
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elliemaejune
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Joined: 30 Oct 2006
Posts: 591
Location: The Fireswamp

PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you so much for your reply, Pauline. I have always appreciated your explanations of PA homeschool laws, and your recommendations. You are my hero. Very Happy

I hope the OP checks back, and that things can be worked out.
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