Federal Relations

March 26, 2001

Out of Jail, but Still in Court
Kentucky Litigation Continues

Fourteen-year-old Sarah D must still attend a Kentucky public school against her wishes after a hearing on Friday, March 23, in Logan County Circuit Court.

Judge Tyler Gill turned down Home School Legal Defense Association's emergency request to allow Sarah to study at home while her alleged truancy case is on appeal.

However, he listened carefully to HSLDA attorney David Gordon's arguments and moved the appeal hearing up to the earliest possible date. Sarah will finally get her full hearing on April 20, 2001.

Earlier this school year, Judge Carol Sue Browning issued an arrest warrant for Sarah's mother because she insisted on her right to teach Sarah at home. HSLDA managed to keep Mrs. D out of jail until Sarah's trial, but on February 13, 2001, Browning found Sarah guilty of "habitual truancy" and ordered her to attend public school.

Last Friday, HSLDA went to the higher court to ask Judge Gill for a special ruling that would get Sarah out of public school. Attorney Gordon knew he had an uphill battle - he had to persuade Judge Gill that Browning was not merely wrong, but that her ruling was "arbitrary and capricious." (To find out about the previous ruling, click here.)

Gordon explained that Judge Browning never heard any evidence about problems with home schooling, an educational option which is perfectly legal in Kentucky. Nor did she hear any testimony that public school would be better for Sarah. On the contrary, Judge Browing's order to force Sarah to attend public school was based solely upon her personal bias against home education at the high school level. Attorney Gordon read Browning's own words from the transcript of the trial:

"I think a student misses many, many opportunities when placed in a home school as opposed to a public school. . . . I have a doctorate degree. And I do not feel that I am capable of giving my child the education that he deserves. . . .

"A public school teaches a child to be responsible . . . This is something that any young adult will have to achieve in the work force. And it's training that a child cannot get in home school, cannot get. There's no way. . . ." [Read the whole quote from the transcript here.]

Our American system of justice does not authorize a judge to deprive any person of a constitutionally protected liberty freedom solely on the basis of that judge's personal preference. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits any [s]tate from depriving any person of "life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

When Judge Browning took away Mrs. D's right to teach Sarah at home on the basis of her personal preference for public schools, she crossed the constitutional line. Please pray for this family as they await their next hearing on April 20.

 Other Resources

More information on the Sarah D case