My HSLDA Homeschool Story

Let's talk about that time HSLDA protected my family from a false allegation, and an uninformed, over-zealous social worker.

One mom shares her story of how the HSLDA protected her family from a false allegation and an uninformed, over-zealous social worker. #homeschool
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I'm sure most homeschoolers have heard of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The HSLDA is a nonprofit organization established to defend and advance the rights of parents to direct the education of their children. 


They offer resources, information, and support for members. Their most basic function is to work in advocacy for homeschool families. When parents find their choice to homeschool has been met by opposition from schools, school boards, social workers and police, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association comes to their aid.


Although I've known about the HSLDA for years, I never thought I would need them. "After all," I reasoned, "Florida is a very homeschool-friendly state."


I was wrong. Oh, was I wrong! 





Last August, I learned a valuable lesson: It doesn't matter how homeschool-friendly your local government is. All it takes is one call to the child abuse hotline to send your life into chaos. 


That's what happened to me. 

It has taken nearly a year for me to muster the courage to write about this. Now that the threat is removed from my life, I want to share my story.



A False Report to DCF 

As many of you know, Scotty, my children's father, died last July. This set off an unexpected chain of events.

Many years ago, Scotty and I  decided a certain family member would not be in our daughters' lives. This person has a long history of domestic violence against his wife and children. We didn't want our children exposed to this narcissistic monster.


Upon Scotty's death, this person thought he would finally be in the lives of our daughters. I think he viewed Scotty as the gatekeeper to the kids. And now that he was gone, there was no one standing guard. 


He couldn't have been more wrong.  

When I refused to allow him in my daughters' lives, he took revenge by calling Florida's Department of Children and Families (DCF). He told them the girls "aren't in school."




Words are very important to the narcissistic. They are the weapon with which they manipulate and control people. Please note: he didn't tell DCF the kids were homeschooled. He said they're not in school


That little manipulation of words makes all the difference, doesn't it? 

Mind you, this is a man who pulled his 10 year old out of school, never following any of the legal guidelines for homeschooling, simply so he could have a slave and victim at home, while not being tracked by DCF or the school system. He knows how to fool the system.



A Social Worker at My Door

In August 2010, there was a knock at my door. When I opened the door, there stood a woman who introduced herself as a social worker with the Department of Children and Families. She told me she needed to enter my apartment and interview my children - out of my presence.

I asked what the allegation was. She replied, "I can't tell you that until we're in the apartment. I need to speak with the children out of your presence." I insisted she tell me why. She tried to get in without answering me, but eventually told me, "We have a report that your children are not in school."

Notice she said "we." 


She said "we" because she was accompanied by six police officers. I was confused by their presence, but told her my children were enrolled in a private school. When I turned to go get my letter from the private school, she pushed her way into my home. Along with the police officers, she began a search of my apartment without a warrant.




The DCF worker then took Alexis (age 12) outside so I could not hear the conversation. As we awaited her return, one of the officers asked if the two crates on the floor were our homeschool books. I told him, "Yes, for this term. Those in the two book cases are for the year." 


While the male officers were impressed by the wealth of books, the female officer stated she didn't believe one person could possibly educate a child in all subjects.

Ummm. One-room school houses anyone? Whatever.


Once the social worker had inspected my home, and seen proof that the children were enrolled in a private school, I assumed that would be the end of this intrusion.


Again, I was wrong.



Over the course of two months, that social worker hounded me. 

She repeatedly asked me to fax over samples of their school work. Each time I complied, and each time she confirmed receipt. But a week or two later, she'd call me claiming she never received anything, and ask me to send it again.


The social worker finally admitted I was homeschooling, but said, "Yes, you've proven you're homeschooling, but you haven't proven that you have the right to homeschool. 

What? (I had even faxed her the laws of homeschooling in Florida.)

Two months, y'all. 60 days.




HSLDA to the Rescue

While browsing the HSLDA website, I learned I never should have sent her anything. In fact, she had violated our rights on numerous counts. Feeling this was never going to end, and living in a constant state of panic, I called the HSLDA. I told them the entire story.

They immediately sent her a letter by fax and mail. I called the social worker to tell her she should direct all future inquiries to my attorney. 

She stated, "DCF doesn't have to talk to your lawyer." 
I replied, "That's fine, but you won't be talking to me."

Attorney T.J. Schmidt was able, with one letter, to get this woman to close the case as an unfounded allegation. 


I could have saved myself two months of stress, worry, tears, and aggravation had I simply been a member in the first place. 

I am now educated on what to do if a social worker shows up at my door again. I know my rights. I also know not to let anyone interview my kids alone.  


They don't have a right to do that. (You would not believe the things this worker said to my little girl in an attempt to instill a fear of me.)

I highly recommend HSLDA. For $115 per year (and you can make payment arrangements of $10/month if needed), it's more than worth the money. 





Life in the Aftermath of DCF Harrassment 

In the months following this nightmare, the family member who made the call stalked my websites. I knew it was him because he's narcissistic enough to name his IP address after himself. Eventually, I learned how to block his IP and was able to keep him off my sites.

For nearly a year I've been afraid to write about this. 
I feared he would do something else to me if he saw this. 

Each morning, for a year, I have been awakened by my own panic that cops were about to barge into my home and take my children. I've been on high-alert. 

A slight case of PTSD? Probably.

I feel safe now. I have moved and left no forwarding information. I also have the legal protection I need because I use money from my daughters' survivors benefits to pay for a membership to HSLDA. 


Their father was a big supporter of our homeschool. He bought their books, went on field trips, and loved that they were homeschooled.




In our last conversation, he told me how deeply he appreciated the old-fashioned, simple life our children live. He particularly appreciated that I was using the Charlotte Mason method with our kids, focusing their attention on the fine arts rather than TV and video games.

I know if he could have a say, he would agree I made a wise decision to use his hard-earned social security benefits to gain legal protection for his daughters' right to be homeschooled. 



Happy Homeschooling! 

28 comments

  1. We have let our membership in HSLDA lapse. We kept it for years and never had to use it. After reading this, I will renew it when we start homeschooling again in the fall. We don't know anyone that I think will cause trouble, but you never know. And, if we ever had to hire a private lawyer, one hour of their time would cost more than the HSLDA membership.

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    1. Anonymous9/02/2013

      I used to think, too, that we would never use this. I'm a former public school teacher, so I have "credentials" that most homeschooling moms don't. So I figured people would leave me alone. But once I found out what HSLDA does...and what they support... I knew they were an organization I wanted to back up financially. As homeschooling moms, we don't have time to keep up on all the latest bills and laws that affect homeschoolers and are coming down the pike. I feel like HSLDA is my personal secretary in that they fight these battles for me, so that I can get back to teaching. When something is in the works that needs me to contact my politicians, they let me know when to contact, to whom I should contact, and the phone number or email of my state representatives. WELL worth the money for all that! I love HSLDA! So grateful for them! They are fighting for my children's future right to homeschool my grandchildren! You are all benefitting from HSLDA whether or not you are paying for it!

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  2. Audrey: Amen to that! I have been dealing with lawyers and legal messes for 3 years now. $250/hour. HSLDA membership is $115 for a year (or something like that). Well worth it! Had my case not been closed out..they'd have gone to bat IN COURT for me.. at no charge.

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  3. I am sorry to hear of your dealings with this situation. I currently am a member of THSLC which is a Texas legal council. I am glad you were able to get everything worked out in the end, and hopefully now that you have the membership you will never need it again.

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  4. Penny: Oh AMEN! to that statement. I'd rather pay the membership fee every year and not use it than to not have it and be cornered in a bad situation. I think it's excellent "insurance".

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  5. You have been through SO MUCH and I am SO SORRY to read this story. Please do keep blogging when you are able; I had no idea what you were really going through. :(

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  6. Happy Elf: Thanks a lot. Fortunately, that incident ended on October 27th. Some of the more difficult things are still going on in our lives. Hopefully they end soon.

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  7. I hope so too! email happyelfhomeschool at gmail dot com anytime you need to talk! :)

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  8. Michelle, thanks so much for posting this. Very difficult situation for you--I am so sorry that you had to go through this. I can't believe that it ended up going so far. The social worker and police should have used simple common sense and stopped this investigation immediately. I honestly hope you're able to sue for compensation for your time and legal fees as your rights were violated here. I'd going to send a head's up to PACE about your story and link back to your blog. I think everyone needs to read this!

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  9. Michelle, I posted here: http://www.paceathome.com/entry.php?171-Deland-Homeschooling-Family-Endures-Social-Workers-Investigations-What-Would-You-Do
    You rock for sharing your story! BTW, I've been a member of HSLDA for several years and consider it money well spent. I never thought I'd see what happened to you happen here in central FL.

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  10. It's ridiculous what one vengeful family member can do! It seems like everyone has one of "those types" in their family. I'm always nervous that my one of "those types" will pull something like this. We have a group legal membership through my husband's work, but your post is making me wonder if that would be sufficient if something like this happened to us. I wish I could just move so that our one of "those types" wouldn't know where we lived, but she would learn from others. How did you find out what your one of "those types" ISP number was and how did you block it?

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  11. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm so sorry to hear about everything that has gone on with your family. This only confirms my choice in keeping my HSLDA membership. Thank God that the homeschooling situation was taken care of for your family. Praying and believing that your family will come through everything emotionally and spiritually VICTORIOUSLY!! Blessings.

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  12. Leah: I agree. It's shocking when you live in such homeschool-friendly place, isn't it? Unfortunately, that social worker didn't understand homeschool or how it works. She was clueless. I think I was the first homeschool mom she's ever had contact with.. she wanted report cards and all sorts of records which only a public school would maintain. She really didn't "get" it. So one ignorant person (or even one hostile person) can make your life a mess. Best to be covered.

    Thanks for the write-up and link!

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  13. Maureen: His ISP is named after himself. In other words, instead of "Road runner" or "AOL" his is his own ISP and server under his own name. But I saw it because of my analytics tool. I blocked him using http://toolator.com/

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  14. Happy Elf: Thanks a lot. Fortunately, that incident ended on October 27th. Some of the more difficult things are still going on in our lives. Hopefully they end soon.

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  15. Penney Douglas6/24/2011

    So sorry that happened to you.  I'm glad you found HSLDA and they were able to help you.  One false word to children's services can cause so much pain and heartache.  And the anonymous tipper doesn't have any consequences to pay.  Not a fair system at all.  

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  16. Leblancmaryjo8/16/2011

    I have known of HSLDA for years but didn't join last year because my children were not school-age yet. However, a trip to the ER in Feb brought DCF running to falsely accuse us of parental neglect, etc...

    I was terrified! I've never felt so helpless and intimidated in my life. Thankfully, Attorney T.J. Schmidt is a family friend and he wonderfully walked me through the ordeal. It did not turn out nearly as bad as it could have, but it shattered the assumptions of safety that I had.

    We will be joining HSLDA this year and are immensely thankful for their ministry and advocacy!

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  17. In our state, it is no longer anonymous. But they do not enforce the law either. Our laws state that people maliciously making false reports can be jailed for up to 5 years and fined $10,000. But I've yet to see it done.

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  18. OH how fortunate to know T.J. Schmidt personally!!!!

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  19. We were also chased by These evil toads. We went to the ER and instead of being helped they held treatment until CPS and the police arrived. We chose to leave the state. We are members now of  HSDLA .
    Glad to hear you got out of it.
    Too many other home schoolers still believe that if you are investigated you must be guilty and that this could easily be resolved if you just cooperate. They live in a dream world.

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  20. It can be a rough road. The most cooperation they need is your letter of intent or your letter from your private school (in Florida). Otherwise, they need a door in their face and the HSLDA's phone number.

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  21. What an important post. In CA it can be complicated but I armed myself every year with the paperwork they were required to see and kept it right by my door. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I hope it helps another homeschooling family.

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  22. Definitely wise to be prepared. I had my paperwork ready too but it didn't help. That social worker was as uninformed about homeschooling in Florida as I am about how to survive on Pluto. The difference is.. my job doesn't expose me to Pluto's environment; while she should understand at least SOMETHING of the laws that affect the children she is allegedly there to protect.

    I hope this post helps others too.
    Thanks again for visiting!!!

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  23. I had NO idea about your girls father and this situation. I've always admired your dedication to homeschooling as a single parent.

    I keep putting off HSLDA and this may be a wake up call! I had a similar incident this past yeat except it was an accident. I was doing sit down work with my 6 year old and the 2 year old let thr baby crawl out of the house without me knowing! The police brought him to me! A neighbor had called them. As a former DSF worker, I just knew we were in for a mess. However, God had different plans and the officers were very understanding. Still, we have a target on our back as homeschoolers sometimes and we really do need that legal protection.

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    Replies
    1. I never thought of it that way.. a target on our back. That's how it feels sometimes, isn't it? Glad you're around Michelle. Love your Instagram post. Just followed you.

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    2. Anonymous10/07/2014

      It would be very remiss not to acknowledge that there are some, albeit very few, that are negligent -- they use the ruse that they are homeschooling but do not. It gives dedicated parents who do homeschool an undeserved black eye.

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    3. Anonymous,

      And it shouldn't. It absolutely should not. When do we ever hear of an elementary school student who was abused - to death even - that results in DCF attacking ALL public school parents? We don't. Because that doesn't happen.

      Delete
  24. I'm always furious to hear how agencies violate our rights as parents. I think it's funny that you impressed the police with so many books that you had!

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