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State Court Decisions

State Court Decisions

This provides some historical perspective of the VT Supreme Court between 1990 and 2004 concerning decisions that touch upon or are directly related to home study in Vermont. While these are public documents, some of them are concerning juveniles and so the court uses initials to hide the identity of the child. The most telling case was in 2000 in the case of T.M. You can click on the name of a court case to read these excerpts in context and some of these documents may have spelling errors in them, please read past them.

~ 1990 Vermont Court Decisions ~

Delabruere v. State - VT Supreme Court, April - private school did not register with state - attending children truant: "The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects both freedom to believe and the freedom to act. The freedom to believe is an absolute one, but the freedom to act is necessarily limited. Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 220 (1972). As the Supreme Court said in Yoder:  [A] State's interest in universal education, however highly we rank it, is not totally free from a balancing process when it impinges on fundamental rights and interests, such as those specifically protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the traditional interest of par­ents with respect to the religious upbringing of their chil­dren so long as they, in the words of Pierce [v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925)], "prepare [them] for addi­tional obligations."  ***** "Following Yoder, there have been extensive challenges to state regulation of home education or private schooling based on assertions of religious liberty. With only isolated exceptions, neutral and reasonable state regulations affecting home schooli­ng and private education have been upheld against free exercise challenges. [citations snipped] In almost every one of these cases, the main objection was to the fact of state involvement or regula­tion and not to the content." ***** "Defendants next claim that the criminal prosecution imper­missibly intrudes on their substantive due process right to con­trol and direct the education of their child in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The right defendants assert found its first expression in Pierce [v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. at 534-35, as the "liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of chil­dren under their control" and has been recognized in later deci­sions of the United States Supreme Court. See Carey v. Population Services International, 431 U.S. 678, 685 (1977) (child rearing and education part of the right to privacy); Gris­wold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 482 (1965) (right to educate one's child as one chooses is part of right to privacy). We have also recognized this right in other contexts. See Paquette v. Pa­quette, 146 Vt. 83, 92, 499 A.2d 23, 29 (1985) (due process clause protects "the liberty interest of parents and children to relate to one another in the context of the family, free from govern­mental interference"). "[14, 15] Although we agree that defendants have the right to direct the education of their children, we do not agree that it is absolute. In Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 178 (1976), the Supreme Court held that the privacy right did not restrict the government "from regulating the implementation of paren­tal decisions concerning a child's education." Thus, it went on to hold that parents "have no constitutional right to provide their children with private school education unfettered by reasonable government regulation." Id. Based on the analysis of Runyon, all courts that have confronted defendants' argument here have rejected it and held that the parents' rights must give way to reasonable state regulation. See, e.g., Murphy v. Arkansas, 852 F.2d at 1044; Care & Protection of Charles, 399 Mass. at 336, 504 N.E.2d at 600; State v. Shaver, 294 N.W.2d at 899. Since we have held above that the regulation in this case is reasonable, there is no violation of defendants' due process rights as par­ents." 

~ 2000 Vermont Court Decisions ~

In re: T.M. - VT Supreme Court, May - 166(b) is not for the approval of the home study program: “Notwithstanding the frequent references by the court - and occasionally the parties - to the Commissioner's ostensible discretion to "approve" a home-study program, the statute plainly confers no such authority. Under subsection (b), enrollment occurs either immediately or within 45 days after receipt of the enrollment notice, unless the Commissioner orders a hearing, in which case "the child shall not be enrolled until after an order has been issued by the hearing officer to that effect." Id. § 166b(b)(2). There is no provision, however, authorizing or empowering the Commissioner to defer enrollment indefinitely merely by virtue of a letter to the parent or guardian indicating that the information provided is "incomplete."”   *****  “This contemporaneous amendment to the compulsory attendance law reinforces the conclusion that pre-approval of a home-study program was not contemplated by the Legislature.”

~ 2002 Vermont Court Decisions ~

In re: Appeals of Patrick Simoneau and William Penrod, May - Environmental Court used the word"homeschool" rather than the legal term of "home study":  "The District shall not allow any more usage of the proposed trail segment than 60 people per day. Except for organized school, homeschool, camp, birdwatching, nature study or other organized groups…."

~ 2003 Vermont Court Decisions ~

In re: S.M. - VT Supreme Court, March - hearing under home study law appealed to VT Supreme Court:  "…. although the Vermont home study statute is a notice-enrollment rather than an application-approval regulation, and thus "place[s] the burden on the State to preclude enrollment solely by means of a noticed hearing,"   *****  "…. we specifically recognized that the statute imposes certain requirements on parents, and that the Commissioner is empowered to determine whether a home study program complies with the statute in providing a minimum course of study, and to prevent enrollment through a noticed hearing if the program is not in compliance. Id. (citing 16 V.S.A. § 166b(e)). Appellants' characterization of VDE's role in the enrollment process as merely a "ministerial function" is inaccurate."   *****  "Similarly, we reject appellants' contention that the VDE's interpretation of 16 V.S.A. § 166(a)(4) makes the home study statute into an application-approval provision by giving the VDE the authority to approve or disapprove the home study enrollment based on its own evaluation of the professional's data. At best, appellants' criticism is premature. As the Hearing Officer stated, "by requesting the method of screening and the date the screening occurred, the Department is not mandating a particular type of screening, or kind of professional required or use of a preapproved list of professionals. The Department has asked the parents to submit the data or basis for the teacher's opinion and nothing more." We recognize that appellants fear that the VDE will go further and begin judging the merits of the conclusion of the independent professional. If that occurs, the parents involved can contest the VDE's action. This is not that case."   *****  "If the VDE determines that the parent's enrollment information is incomplete, it must specifically identify the information which it has determined is missing. See 16 V.S.A. § 166b(b)(1). As we held in T.M., if it wants to deny the enrollment because of incomplete information, it must call a hearing to determine compliance. 

Transcript of Oral Arguments for S.M. - VT Supreme Court, March - (interesting exchange during oral argument for this case, a very telling opinion of the Agency is voiced): >>Judge1: Let me try a hypothetical, just to put this in context.  Let's say a parent responded as you would, or the professional responded as you'd like and said that my determination is based on having seen the child two years ago.  What would you do then? >>Crippen: Well, normally the department would call the physician to determine if there had been any more resent contact than that, and what had been done two years ago.  The fact that we . . . >>Judge1: If that's what you do why didn't you call this teacher and . . . >>Crippen: The parents refused to allow it.  You see the problem is we don't know what that teacher did, we don't know if that person had that student in school, and those records are confidential, the same.  We treat the Form B as a limited waver. But the parents expressly refused to allow us to contact the teacher.  They said, "You don't have any authority to ask for that information."  And therein lies the problem.  We need to be able to verify that the screening occurred.  That would be sufficient to detect a disability, if that essential requirement for an adapted curriculum is going to have any meaning whatsoever. >>Judge1:  So you would treat a statement by the physician, lets take a physician, I think that's what you used: "That I saw this child at some point" as a waver of a confidentiality, that would allow you to inquire more about information not on the form. >>Crippen: Yes Judge1:  But when they, but an opinion alone is not a waver. >>Crippen: Well, the fact that the Form B is submitted to the Department indicates that there is a waver of that confidentiality, with respect to simply that screening.  We are not assuming that it waves the confidentiality for all other aspects of the student's medical care.    This is why VHEN suggests you use VHEN Form B so that the Agency, if they have questions about Form B, must first ask you for permission to call the independent professional who fills out Form B. If this is a medical professional they must abide by HIPPA and would need your permission to even talk to the Agency, anyway. At least you would hope they would tell the Agency that they can't talk to them without permission. 

Wood v. Eddy - VT Supreme Court, April - parent's fundamental liberty interest in discipline: "First, to follow the dictates of the United States Supreme Court, the Legislature needed to preserve some degree of natural parents' "fundamental liberty interest" in custody and management of their children. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753 (1983).  Second, the Legislature acknowledged the impracticality of substituting the judgment of a court for that of a parent who observes his children on a regular basis and better knows their particular disciplinary needs.  Accordingly, a court must employ some level of deference when evaluating child-rearing preferences to maximize child welfare.  Lane v. Schenck, 158 Vt. 489, 495, 614 A.2d 786, 789 (1992)."

In re: K.M. - VT Supreme Court, June - hearing under home study law appealed to VT Supreme Court:  "Under 16 V.S.A. § 166b(e), the Commissioner may convene a hearing on a proposed home study program when "the [C]ommissioner has information that creates a significant doubt about whether a home study program can or will provide a minimum course of study for a student who has not yet enrolled.""

In re: A.V., S.T., A.C. and E.V. - VT Supreme Court, December - family court ruling appealed to the VT Supreme Court:  "Because none of the children were properly enrolled in either a home-study program or a public or approved independent school, SRS filed a petition alleging that the children were CHINS due to educational neglect and truancy……… [parents] vaguely assert that the record does not support the findings because SRS's experts focused on the children's present needs and how a public education would meet those needs, rather than on the shortcomings of the parents' home schooling program.  We find no merit to this argument.  The evidence concerning the deficiencies of the parents as teachers and the inadequate education the children received at home was undeniable…As we concluded above, the record supports the court's finding of educational neglect."

~ 2004 Vermont Court Decisions ~

In re: K.M. - VT Supreme Court, May - hearing under home study law appealed to VT Supreme Court:   "In their briefs, parents first claim that the hearing on their home study application was illegal. We note that parents made a similar claim, which we rejected, in their previous appeal. See In re K.M., 2002-340, at 2 (Vt. June 26, 2003). The claim has no more merit now than it did in 2003. The DOE Commissioner is authorized by 16 V.S.A.  166b(e) to convene a hearing on a proposed home study program if the Commissioner "has information that creates a significant doubt about whether a home study program can or will provide a minimum course of study for a student who has not yet enrolled."