attorney with Homeschool Legal Advan-tage;(HLA),;put;it;this;way:;“There’s;a;lot
of judgment involved in these situations.
Sometimes we have a very responsible official investigating a case, and sometimes
we run into someone who is a little overzealous or even anti-homeschooling.”
Classic Interrogation Methods
In the scenario above, based on several
real-life incidents, the social worker refused to tell you the specific complaints
against your family. She was applying a
classic technique used by police when interrogating a suspect. Typically, investigators disclose as little information as possible to the person they are questioning.
This gives the interrogator an advantage,
because a guilty suspect who does not
know the reason for the interview is more
likely to reveal something incriminating.
For the same reason, social workers
have traditionally refused to tell homeschooling families why they are being
questioned. Also, a vague and undisclosed complaint gives the investigator
the most leeway to ask questions, inspect
homes, and view homeschooled children. In this way, the social worker tries
to rule out child abuse or neglect or to
uncover evidence that will be used in a
case against the parents.
Of course, no family wants government workers invading the privacy of
their home and potentially traumatizing their children with questions and
searches—especially if they have no idea
why the investigator is making those demands. Fortunately, changes to federal
law in the last decade have given families
some relief from this classic interrogation method.
Your Right to Be Informed of
Every year, the Federal Government offers
money to the States to assist in the fight
against child abuse. If a State decides to
accept those federal dollars—and they almost always do—that money comes with
strings attached. Almost a decade ago,
Congress and President Bush added one
very important string when they amended
the federal law regarding child abuse and
neglect: They required you to be informed
of the allegations against you.
Since 2003, any State that accepts fed-
eral money to fight child abuse must also
create local “procedures” that require
“a representative of the child protective
services agency” to advise an individual
“at the initial time of contact” about
“the complaints and allegations made
2 In other words, state in-
vestigators must now tell homeschooling
families—when they first initiate con-
tact—about the child abuse allegations.
In short, social workers should no longer
keep homeschooling families in the dark
about the details of these complaints.
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