Homeschool Parents’ Conviction Appealed
By: Peter Kamakawiwoole
May 18, 2012
In the fall of 2011 a sheriff’s deputy drove up to the Thackers’ home to investigate allegations that their homeschooled children were truant. During his visit, the deputy threatened to take the children into custody if the Thackers did not enroll them in public school immediately. The Thackers contacted Home School Legal Defense Association, and HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly informed the deputy that his threat was unconstitutional. We also affirmed that the Thackers were homeschooling in compliance with Nebraska state law, contrary to the allegations.
In Nebraska, homeschooling parents must annually file paperwork to establish an “exempt” school. For those filing for the first time, the paperwork must be submitted a month before the school begins. The Thackers had recently moved into Nebraska and decided to start their homeschool program in November. Accordingly, they submitted their paperwork in October.
Due to a recent change in Nebraska’s truancy law, the prosecutor decided to pursue charges against the family. In 2010, the Nebraska legislature made it mandatory for a school district to report absences to the county attorney instead of dealing with them within the school system.
HSLDA litigation attorneys Darren Jones and Peter Kamakawiwoole represented the Thackers at their trial, where we presented evidence that the Thackers had a legal right to submit their paperwork after the public school had begun its school year. Furthermore, Nebraska’s Commissioner of Education recognized their school for the entire school year. Unfortunately, the judge ruled that the Thackers had not conformed to the state’s compulsory attendance law for the months of August and September; however, he refused to fine the family.
On Monday, May 14, 2012, HSLDA’s litigation team submitted our appeal to the county’s district court. We are asking the court to overturn the previous judge’s decision and recognize the Thackers’ exempt school, just as the state of Nebraska has done, as valid for the entire 2011–2012 school year.
Please continue to lift up the Thacker family during this time. Ask God to grant our appeal favor and for the court to overturn the convictions.