The indiscriminate prosecution of Texas home school families ended with the Leeper case decision in 1994, which established that home schooling was indeed legal in Texas. However, school districts were left to their own devices as to how to decide whether families were truant or were actually home schooling.
Based on language in the Leeper ruling, school districts began requiring a review of curriculum and interviews of the families to convince officials they were legitimately home schooling, which often degenerated into an approval process. The result was the general harassment of home schooling families across Texas.
Rather than seeking a legal solution by filing another lawsuit that would likely have been unsuccessful, THSC pursued a policy solution. In 1995 THSC approached the Texas Commissioner of Education, the head of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), and urged him to implement a statewide policy to resolve the issue of school districts abusing their power. In response, the TEA adopted guidelines directing all school districts to accept a letter of assurance in response to an inquiry from the school district instead of demanding that curriculum be reviewed and the family interviewed.
At THSC’s request, each subsequent commissioner has adopted the same guidelines, which are in effect to this day. The procedures THSC recommends families follow in dealing with districts are based not only on the Leeper case decision, but also on this Texas policy.
So What About El Paso?
During the same time period of the McIntyre truancy case (2006), which I wrote about earlier, THSC responded to similar situations in El Paso on at least three occasions with a very different outcome. In 2004 we were contacted by a member family who had withdrawn their child, according to our recommended policy, by written letter of withdrawal delivered by certified mail. Later, when the district insisted that they complete the school district’s form (something that was also demanded of the McIntyres), this family again followed our recommendation by instead sending a letter of assurance by certified mail.
THSC intervened when school officials yet again ordered this family to come to the school to sign the form. THSC advised officials that the family had cooperated with their inquiry according to TEA policy. We also included documentation from the TEA and threatened legal action if school officials should file truancy charges against this family. The school officials dropped the issue.
Similar situations occurred in 2006 and 2008 and were handled in the same way. None of these cases resulted in truancy charges being filed, and were resolved by THSC when the families contacted us and followed our recommended procedures.
In 2008, THSC responded to correspondence from the attorney representing El Paso ISD in which he sought to justify the local policy of requiring home school families to complete district forms in regard to a family on whose behalf we had intervened. I responded with correspondence in which we justified our recommended procedures and assured him that we would file suit if necessary to defend these families from prosecution by the district.
Although THSC was and is prepared to file legal actions to protect home schooling and parental rights, it wasn’t necessary for us to do so in these instances in order for the El Paso ISD officials to recognize the rights of these families. When families follow the THSC recommended procedures and the TEA Policy, it puts us in a very strong position to legally defend families and hold school officials accountable.
Texas Home Schoolers Remain Free
Although we wish for the sake of the McIntyre family that their civil suit in El Paso had turned out differently, its outcome does not undermine the current law or policies that Texas home schoolers abide by today.
Texas Home School Coalition has been fighting for Texas families since the 1980s, and we continue to Keep Texas Families Free with each battle that comes to our members or the home school community today.
Are you a member fighting a battle for your home school? We can help. If you’re not a member, join today.