A few weeks ago an El Paso appellate court ruled against a home school family in their civil suit against a local school district. Last month I posted a review and discussion of the El Paso ruling and how it impacts home schoolers.
The family that filed that suit contacted me and asked that I clarify and/or correct some of the comments I made in regard to the case. After a lengthy discussion and review of the facts surrounding the case, I agreed to do so.
Background on the Case
The McIntyre family is a devout Christian family with nine children. They were the focus of efforts by their extended family to illegally take their interest in a family business. This resulted in a multimillion dollar lawsuit related to the business, in which the extended family members eventually lost and were found guilty of malicious actions against the McIntyre family.
These same family members, some of whom were former public school teachers, contacted the district and made allegations that the parents were not teaching their children and urged the school officials to take action against the McIntyres.
There is no question that El Paso ISD has a reputation for aggressive actions against home school families as it was a named party to the Leeper lawsuit in the 1980s. The McIntyres were first contacted by El Paso ISD in 2006. They responded to that inquiry by a phone call to confirm to district officials that they were indeed teaching their children at home.
Reasoning Behind the Civil Suit
The second contact from El Paso ISD in January of 2007 was the result of the complaint by family members. After visits to their home from school officials, the McIntyres were advised by Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) not to sign the district’s form as requested. Instead, HSLDA responded with a letter to the district asserting that the family was in compliance with the law. Later when officials demanded a face to face meeting, HSLDA recommended they not comply and sent a second letter to the district in which it threatened civil action against the district.
A few weeks later, the district filed truancy charges against the McIntyres and their children. HSLDA referred them to an attorney retained by HSLDA who represented them in the truancy case. Later, according to both the McIntyres and HSLDA, the same attorney as well as two others were hired by the family to represent them in a civil suit against El Paso ISD officials. This was the kind of suit previously threatened by HSLDA. The civil suit alleged harassment of the family by the school district and others. The McIntyres disclosed they have spent almost $400,000 in court costs and legal fees in this case to date, and they plan to appeal it to the Texas Supreme Court. Read the brief supporting their appeal at the El Paso Court of Appeals.
The McIntyres expressed that they were encouraged to file the civil suit as a means of forcing the district to drop its criminal truancy charges against them. Court records indicate that the District Attorney offered to drop the charges if the family would provide an assurance letter. The family refused to do so, based on the advice they had been given. The truancy charges were eventually dropped in November of 2007 (after the civil suit was filed) for the stated reason that the witness (a daughter of the family) was not willing to testify in support of the charges.
In Short . . .
The McIntyres clearly followed the advice they had received in a good faith effort to do what was best for their family. HSLDA’s counsel was based on the case law that established home schooling as legal in Texas in 1994. THSC’s procedure for handling cases like this differs because we address issues from not only a legal, but also a state policy perspective.
Watch for my next post on the Texas policy that is the basis for the freedom parents have to educate their own kids today.