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Judge sends homeschoolers to ‘fake’ court

Now faces accusations of 'improper intimidation and retaliation'


Judge sends homeschoolers to ‘fake’ court

When Missouri parents Tiffany and Anthony Swearengin saw their children weren’t making progress in school, they followed the lead of millions of American families: They notified the school, took their kids out of class and started homeschooling.

Then the Swearengins received a letter from Rose Pursell, the chief deputy juvenile officer in the Douglas County, Missouri, court system, notifying them “to appear before the Truancy Court of 44th Judicial Circuit, at the Juvenile Court Center.”

The letter threatens the parents with the “above named juvenile be[ing] placed in the legal custody of the Missouri Children’s Division.”

But no such court legally exists, and now the judge, R. Craig Carter, who’s behind an effort described by the Home School Legal Defense Association as “improper intimidation and retaliation against any parent who withdraws a child from public school to lawfully homeschool,” is finding himself on the defense in a lawsuit.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, HSLDA, was notified when the family received the letter, which styled itself as a “Notice to appear before the truancy court of Douglas County, Missouri.”

The truancy court will discuss the above named juvenile (sic) attendance of (sic) school, which brings the juvenile within the jurisdiction of the juvenile division of the circuit court,” it threatened.

Attendance in truancy court is mandatory and failure to comply with this notice can result in the judge ordering the juvenile office to file a petition requesting that the above named juvenile be placed in the legal custody of the Missouri Children’s Division.”

In a filing with the Court of Appeals for the Southern District of Missouri, HSLDA laid out the facts in seeking a “Writ of Prohibition” against the judge.

The filing explains the boy’s first grade teacher had wanted the parents to medicate their son, because he was “hyper” in class, even though the boy’s physician had said no such action was needed.

The notice to appear in this case is not a lawfully issued notice to appear in a lawfully established court in spite of its appearance and ‘mandatory’ nature,” HSLDA writes. “The Missouri Code establishing the court system of Missouri does not establish ‘truancy’ courts.’”

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