I haven’t seen any mention of this truancy case on Missouri email lists or in previous news alerts, so I had to dig for background on it. The comments at various sites added to the overall picture of the case, and this situation almost looks like one of those unfortunate examples of a continuing collection of bad choices, poor skills, and anger stirred in the crucible of compulsory school attendance.
Even though ‘homeschooling’ is mentioned, I saw no indication in the news reports that the prosecutors pursued the case because of ‘homeschooling’ itself. Of course, this is only a reflection of what has been reported, and non-homeschoolers can be unaware of what needs to be looked at concerning ‘homeschooling’ itself. In Missouri the crucial item would be the daily log of activities. No record = no defense.
Parent gets 2 days in jail for child’s truancy, 10 Jun 2008, KSPR, Springfield, Missouri
Tuesday Kathleen Casteel was sentenced for violating the state’s truancy law. According to Assistant Prosecutor Joe Knipp, Casteel’s son missed nearly half the school days at Reed Middle School last year.
Mother sentenced to jail for son’s truancy, 11 June 2008, News-Leader.com, Springfield, Missouri
He also ordered Casteel –who has home schooled her son since his enrollment was revoked from Springfield Public Schools –to put the child back into a public school.
That provision came after prosecutors argued Casteel was not home schooling her son in compliance with state law, something defense attorneys contested.
Fitzsimmons’ order that Casteel enroll her son in public school also is an aberration, according to Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman Jim Morris.
“That is a rare step,” Morris said, noting that neither his office nor many school districts regulate home schooling. “The state has always had a hands-off policy.”
Give truancy trial a meaning, 26 April 2008, News-Leader, Springfield, Missouri
No other school scofflaw in memory has been so brazen as to push the attendance police to this degree. None had demanded a trial in front of a panel of her peers. None had shouted so publicly: This just wasn’t my fault.
So what will a chronicler of history say? What does this mean? Was she martyr or malingerer?
The case left the public defenders in the case asking at trial: What purpose does this serve? Observers also ask whether parents like Casteel face a Catch-22: use too much force to get a kid to go to school, you get charged with abuse. Don’t get the kid to school, you can be charged under the truancy law.
Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore defends the decision by the school district, embraced by his office, to prosecute Casteel.
Mother from Springfield could get week in jail for son being truant, 24 April 2008, KY3.com, Springfield, Missouri
Casteel testified that her son, who is mentally retarded, didn’t like school and often fought her efforts to make him go. She said he would throw things, leave their home through his bedroom window, and even once tried to jump out of her moving car as she took him to school. Casteel said her son said other Reed students teased him and tried to start fights with him. She also said, part of the time, her son lived with her ex-husband in Buffalo.
A district attendance advisor testified she visited Casteel’s home about 25 times, and sometimes took the boy to school with her. The advisor also said Casteel’s other children also had attendance problems, and one time she caught Casteel lying about whether the children were home. A Reed attendance secretary said she repeatedly told Casteel to call school if her son wasn’t coming, but Casteel rarely called.