With the number of legal contacts and cases in the early years of the modern homeschool movement, it became obvious that the formation of a legal defense association was necessary to spread the cost of legal defense among homeschoolers and make legal representation affordable for every home educator.
Some parents feel that if they are not imminently threatened why spend money on association membership, but what happens to one in a very real sense affects all. If by apathy and financial support one family suffers a terrible loss, you can be sure it will be used again and again against other families. Likewise, if one family wins, it will be ammunition for all. These lawyers and these families in trouble must be supported.
When thinking about legal representation, whether by private attorney or legal association, consider the following criteria and be sure you know what you are getting.
- What is their experience and knowledge of home education legal issues in California, and how long have they been involved with home education matters in California?
- How many homeschool challenges and cases (both in court and outside of court) have they handled in California as well as nationwide?
- Do all members have direct and quick access to an attorney available full time to talk to every member about any legal contact by school authorities or child protective services related to home education—from the beginning and until the contact or legal challenge is satisfactorily resolved?
- What assurances do you have in writing that you personally will be represented and defended by an attorney from the beginning of any legal contacts based on your homeschooling?
- Exactly what is covered and what is not? What do they pay for and what do you pay for?
- Are the people handling all of your legal contacts attorneys? Many times non-attorneys handle the preliminary legal work and contacts. Non-lawyers may be ignored or not allowed to attend certain hearings, such as those in juvenile court. Attorneys are given far more access to and credence in our legal system than the non-attorney citizen, however capable the non-attorney might be.
- Will the attorney talk with you and make phone calls or write letters to authorities on your behalf immediately after you have notified them that your homeschooling and parental rights have been challenged?
- Will they always work to keep you out of court rather than waiting until a hearing or a court date has been set before an attorney takes direct action on your behalf?
- Do they have statewide and national connections with attorneys committed to defend home educators and with expertise in this specialized area of law? If you move to another state, are you still covered?
- Do they work cooperatively with homeschool organizations already operating within each state?
- How much is their fee and how long is it good for? Attorney fees are by far the greatest expense. If an association, do they pay 100 percent of the attorney’s fees?
- What related services are available to you? Written guidelines for how you should respond to different kinds of legal contacts? Telephone consultation with an attorney?
- On what grounds will you be defended? Will they defend your constitutional inalienable rights and religious (or other) convictions if you so choose? What compromises may be required of you now or later during a legal confrontation? Do they explain your legal options and let you decide which option to take?
If you are a Christian, also ask this question:
Is their philosophy (life, education, legal, family) consistent with yours? This is a “binding” or “yoking” relationship, i.e., decisions and behavior of one party automatically affect the welfare of the other party because of the contractual or covenant relationship. Membership becomes a contract of obligations on the part of both parties—the member and the legal defense fund or organization. (See II Cor 6:14, 15.)
Why Does CHEA Recommend Membership in HSLDA?
Before Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) was formed, a small core of tremendously dedicated lawyers largely volunteered their time to help homeschoolers, but these men could not continue to take the great volume of phone calls and the increased requests for help without it affecting their livelihood.
HSLDA lawyers have become specialists in home education arguments. They are the very best source of professional help anywhere. But in order to meet the rising demand for their services they need the financial backing of the home education community to continue.
There are others who offer legal defense across the country. However, they may not have the resources and expertise of HSLDA. HSLDA has a proven track record of successes. In choosing a legal defense organization, do not let cost be the only, or even a major, factor. It is important to join before you face a legal challenge since your membership is not retroactive.
As a member of HSLDA, the moment you have any communication from an official you can immediately turn it over to the HSLDA attorneys who take care of it. Courts and homeschooling cases go year round. Government officials can contact you anytime, even during the summer. It has happened.
If you apply now to join, not only will you be protecting yourself, but you will also help other families whose cases are currently pending. Also, it is wise to have your HSLDA membership acceptance in hand before withdrawing your children from school. However, if you have already taken your children out of school, join right away.
Please give this matter very careful consideration and we urge you to apply now. Contact HSLDA, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134, 540-338-5600 or www.hslda.org. HSLDA offers a discount to homeschooling families who join as a group. CHEA Members are eligible for the group rate. In the group area of the application, use the CHEA group number that you will receive with your CHEA Membership Card.