*Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and are not intending to give a dissertation of the law nor are we giving legal advice. We do hope you will gain confidence to calmly and peacefully communicate with your school district, community and other agencies who truly have our kids best at heart.
In the last month I have heard of two separate occasions were a social worker called or knocked on a family’s door. The government workers demanded information and scared the daylights out of the parents. As a homeschool parent I kinda freaked out. Mark and I try to stay in the know about what is happening legally in the homeschool world, especially in our home state of Minnesota.
We had heard about the Homeschool Legal Defense Association through MACHE, both through their website and at the conference held every spring. Prior to this last month we had thought, oh it won’t happen to us. Then it happened to our friends and the reality of knowing it could have been us hit too close to home. We went to the association’s website and filled out the online membership application. Thanks to our MACHE membership discount our membership was only $100 for the year. We could have paid monthly for $10/month, but we decided to go with the yearly membership. I read applications could take up to two to three weeks to process or you can pay an extra $20 to make the expedite the process.
Our government license center in our town has a sign that says, ‘your in ability to be prepared does not equip an emergency on our end’. This is true with the HSLDA, too. If we as parents are intending to homeschool and/or pull our kids out of public schools then we need to be prepared to legally handle anything that might come up. Part of being prepared is joining HSLDA. You’re right you do not have to join, but this group of lawyers specialize in understanding and interpreting homeschool laws as as they apply to state and federal constitutions. It gives us peace of mind knowing we have hired the best lawyers to successfully navigate an area of our lives we value and want to maintain.
After our application was accepted I had a few questions I needed to ask. I wanted to know how we could be prepared if an official came calling or knocking on our door. Mike Donnelly who is the HSLDA lawyer for Minnesota kindly agreed to talk with me over the phone.
My first question was to find out which officials are most likely to come knock on our door. He said, “a social worker, truancy agent or a police officer. A social worker and police officer are generally there for the welfare of the kids. The truancy agent is there to find out why your kid is not in school.
“Most of the time family’s will not experience something like this, but most isn’t a comfortable number.” -Mike Donnelly, Minnesota Lawyer for the HSLDA-
I wanted to know what we could do to be prepared when an official comes calling or knocking on our door. Mikes answer was, “you are never really ready for it even if you have planned for it to happen, because it happens unexpectedly. One recognize you are a citizen of the United States with constitutional rights, such as the fourth amendment”. Again, prevention is key to being prepared. When you are a member of HSLDA their lawyers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
He also said; we can make sure we are getting information, not giving information. We can ask questions to figure out what information the official is asking for us to hand over to them and/or learn what it they are wanting us to do. We can then communicate that information to the HSLDA. If you find yourself face-to-face with an official and you are not a member you can apply for a membership and expedite your membership. They have specifically put the expedite in place to allow for situations like this.
In addition to being available to members 24/7, 365 days a week the association provides a Homeschool 101 to everyone. The information is customized for each state because states laws vary from one another. If you are not a member but still want the Homeschool 101 information simply giving them your name and email address will allow you to view it too. I did this before we became members and I enjoyed the informational emails I was sent.
Mike is in the trenches everyday fighting for our homsechool freedom. As a homeschool lawyer for eight states he has seen his fair share of situations. I value his experience and asked him if there is anything he wants Minnesota homeschool families to know. He said, “first how important it is to support our homeschool organizations such as MACHE and HSLDA”. My personal take on being a member of the association is if they are not fighting our case directly, any cases they are fighting is setting a precedence for our freedom and rights to homeschool. Secondly, “he said to enjoy the fruit of homeschooling. It is a very positive experience and benefits the family”.
I have put HSLDA on speed dial on my iphone. In my experience whenever I have prepared for a stressful situation and have not known when or if it would happen, I was never truly ready when it did happen. I can know my state and federal rights, have HSLDA on speed dial, take a deep breathe as well as speak calmly and respectfully to the authorities. I know the officials at my door have seen situations which would give me nightmares for the rest of my life. Their job is to protect little hearts and minds. My job in this moment is to stay calm, be respectful and to be prepared. It is a moment we can demonstrate to our kids that God is in control of all circumstances, including officials at our door.
If you have not done so, consider joining HSLDA. They are homeschool parents themselves and value what our journey is about and why we are doing it. I want to thank Mike Donnelly for taking time out of his very busy day to talk to me. I look forward to working with you in the future to bring calm, peaceful awareness to Minnesotans.