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In the last fifteen years, the number of homeschooled children in this country has doubled. The rate of children leaving the public schools has increased in the last couple of years as parents become more and more frustrated with curriculums aligned to the Common Core standards, increased testing and PC ideology espoused by the schools. Setting your child up to be homeschooled is more or less difficult depending upon which state you live in.  If you live in Missouri, which has very accommodating statute regarding homeschooling, it is generally an easy transition, or at least it used to be. If you live in Douglas County it could be a much more difficult or scary process.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) sent an email to its members alerting them to a scam taking place in Douglas County Missouri. There a local circuit court judge is complicit in sending official looking letters to families who opted to homeschool threatening them with possibly loss of custody of their children if they did not appear before a fake truancy court.  How will the Missouri Appeals Court react to HSDLA’s petition to stop this scam?

This is their email:

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:
Note: Although this case was filed on April 1, it is not an April Fools’ joke.

On April 1, HSLDA asked the Missouri Court of Appeals to order Circuit Court Judge R. Craig Carter of Ava to stop his attempt to summon a homeschooling family to appear before a court that doesn’t exist.

Tiffany and Anthony Swearengin had been sending their 6- and 8-year old children to public school, until they became convinced that the children could make better progress at home. Soon after beginning to homeschool their children, they received a document in the mail that looked exactly like a real court document. It was signed by an official and mandated the Swearengins to show up at “truancy court” with their children at the Juvenile Court Center in Mountain Grove, over 30 miles from their home.

This frightening document said the “truancy court” would discuss the kids’ school attendance, “which brings them within the jurisdiction of the juvenile division of the Circuit Court.” Even worse, the document threatened that if they did not show up, officials might seek to put the children into state custody.

On the advice of friends, the Swearengins had joined HSLDA. So they knew who to call.

As the HSLDA legal team looked into the situation, we quickly learned that the “truancy court” was fake. No such court exists.

And the alarming letter was fraudulent. It was typed up to look exactly like a real court document for the sole purpose of fooling people and scaring them into obeying.
Our investigation revealed that Judge R. Craig Carter is responsible for this program. We also learned all new homeschool families in Douglas County can now expect the same treatment the Swearengins received.

“Using deception to motivate people is beneath the dignity of the courts,” said HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris, “and it’s illegal. That’s why our legal team and I worked together to prepare documents asking the Missouri Court of Appeals to order Judge Carter to stop this sham.”

Farris continued, “It’s important to protect public confidence in the court system and the rule of law. We anticipate that the Missouri Appeals Court will rebuke Judge Carter.”

Several other jurisdictions around the state have informal programs (which they also call “truancy courts”) to encourage regular school attendance. Those programs, however, don’t try to trick people or scare them into thinking they are in a real court. They are honest and transparent.

Encouraging students to obey the attendance laws is an honorable goal. But those who pursue that goal must themselves obey the law.

Scott Woodruff
Missouri Contact Attorney


Missouri law is quite clear about the ability of parents to homeschool their children and their obligations therein.

Section 167.042 Home school, declaration of enrollment, contents–filing with recorder of deeds or chief school officer–fee.
167.042. For the purpose of minimizing unnecessary investigations due to reports of truancy, each parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child who causes his child to attend regularly a home school may provide to the recorder of deeds of the county where the child legally resides, or to the chief school officer of the public school district where the child legally resides, a signed, written declaration of enrollment stating their intent for the child to attend a home school within thirty days after the establishment of the home school and by September first annually thereafter. The name and age of each child attending the home school, the address and telephone number of the home school, the name of each person teaching in the home school, and the name, address and signature of each person making the declaration of enrollment shall be included in said notice. A declaration of enrollment to provide a home school shall not be cause to investigate violations of section 167.031. The recorder of deeds may charge a service cost of not more than one dollar for each notice filed.

If such statements have been filed there is NO NEED for Judge Carter’s “court” and any call for parents to come in and justify their decision to homeschool is plain harassment.

Judge Carter will be up for re-election in 2018, if he is not disbarred beforehand for misuse of his judicial authority.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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