Truancy Court Racket in Ava, MO- HSLDA

Posted: April 14, 2016 in Education, Parental Rights

It’s rare that I find myself without words to describe the indignation felt when confronted with completely tyrannical behavior. Please, just read the article below and check out the attached links…Evidently, courts think they own your children now. I do understand why they act this way, but the people in these situations need our support. Here’s the article:

Swearengin Family Homeschool Update

Judge: Not My Responsibility. HSLDA: Sure Is!

Last week, the Supreme Court of Missouri gave Circuit Court Judge R. Craig Carter until Monday to respond to our petition for a writ of prohibition to halt a hearing in “truancy court.” Judge Carter did respond yesterday, and today HSLDA has filed a reply.

Jim Mason JIM MASON
Vice President for Litigation and Development

In our reply we refute the judge’s characterization of his “truancy court” as being voluntary, and demonstrate why the case is not moot simply because the day of the hearing has “come and gone.”

As we reported earlier, a family in Ava was summoned to appear before Judge Carter in “truancy court” just days after they withdrew their children from public school to homeschool them. On Friday, April 1, HSLDA filed a petition with the Court of Appeals to put a stop to that summons. The Court of Appeals denied our petition that same day.

On Saturday, April 2, we filed the petition with the Supreme Court of Missouri. Someone from the Supreme Court phoned Judge Carter on Monday morning just before the Ava family was scheduled to appear. Judge Carter told HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff, who was in Missouri to appear on behalf of the family, that the appearance had been postponed because of the call from the Supreme Court.

The Response

Yesterday afternoon, we received Judge Carter’s “suggestions in opposition” to our petition. This morning we asked the Supreme Court to allow us to file a reply to address some of the arguments made by Judge Carter. This afternoon our request was approved.

For example, Judge Carter argues that the Supreme Court may not consider anything beyond the “Notice to Appear.” But he urges the Supreme Court to believe that “[i]n Douglas County the Truancy Court is an informal and voluntary diversionary program.” Yet the “Notice to Appear,” which he urges the Supreme Court to focus on, does not use the words “informal,” “voluntary,” “diversionary,” or “program.”

Rather, the “Notice to Appear,” which looks exactly like an official court document, unequivocally commands the Swearengins’ presence in “Truancy Court.” And it baldly asserts that “[a]ttendance is mandatory and failure to comply can result in the Judge Ordering the Juvenile Office to file a petition” to take children into custody.

Judge Carter also attempts to distance himself from the creation and operation of the “Truancy Court.” But after the Court of Appeals had already denied our petition, he candidly engaged in a private discussion on Facebook on April 1, 2016 and consented to the conversation being posted on a local homeschool group’s Facebook page.

Reality in Question

For example, Judge Carter said, “Truancy Court is a ‘real’ court.” In his Suggestions, Judge Carter says he merely “aid[ed]” in the formation of the Truancy Court in Douglas County. But on Facebook he said, “I have set up one of the only Truancy Courts in a rural area in the United States.” Remember, he said this after one court had denied our petition and before the Supreme Court had ordered him to respond.

Judge Carter also referred to the upcoming hearing on April 4, 2016 as an “appearance.” He said, “I can’t really answer what happened with this particular family, because they haven’t even appeared yet. (Not that I could discuss a specific case anyway due to privacy concerns.)”

He referred to the document sent to the family as a “summons”: “That was one weird thing about this case—I had not even looked at it, the parents were just sent a summons to come to Court to explain. But, like I said, 99.9% of the cases we get are referrals from the public school district who has noted serious problems with a child’s school attendance.”

And of great concern to homeschooling families is that Judge Carter apparently believes that starting “cases” in “truancy court” and “summoning” homeschoolers gives him the authority to require the production of records. He said, “This is really on the attorney who filed this. He should have actually investigated the case. In all actuality, I’m probably the best friend a homeschooling parent has. If a parent shows up with the records showing their kid is being educated, I can end everything right there, and the parents can go on homeschooling like they had been.”

We expect the Supreme Court to rule any day. We will keep you posted.

• • •

Read more: Swearengin Case homepage >>

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