Home school mother in court Arnold woman facing judge today

July 23, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

When it comes to her young daughter's education, Cheryl Anne Battles has refused to deal with Anne Arundel County school officials, a decision that could send her to jail.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Maryland, a District Court judge in Annapolis will be asked today to decide if Battles violated the state's compulsory education law by teaching her 7-year-old daughter at home for the past two years.

If found guilty, she could be sent to jail for 10 days.

Battles, 49, of the 1200 block of Springwood Court in Arnold has refused to send her only daughter to Anne Arundel County schools since the fall of 1994, when she was 5.

Battles also has refused to submit the required paperwork for home schooling to school officials or to meet with them.

She even has refused to discuss a compromise in her misdemeanor criminal case with prosecutors if school officials are present, according to prosecutors and court records.

"She won't communicate with the board of education in any NTC way," said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney. "There's no verification of any sort that this woman's daughter is being taught, or is learning anything."

Battles was charged by school officials with violating the state's compulsory education law on Nov. 6, 1995, after roughly 14 months of refusing both to send her daughter to kindergarten and to fill out a home instruction program form required of parents who teach their children at home.

Battles was unavailable yesterday. She had no listed telephone and did not answer the door to her townhouse.

But her lawyer said she feels that what is taught in county schools violates her religious beliefs and she should not have to answer to school officials.

"Ms. Battles' religious convictions will not permit her to be under the jurisdiction of a school board that offends her religious beliefs," said David Gordon, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association in Loudoun County, Va.

Gordon said his client is a "Bible-believing Christian" who is "offended by the philosophies of secular humanism, atheism, evolutionary theories and homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle" that are taught in the schools.

Battles filed suit last year in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, representing herself in requesting a court order that would have prevented school officials from enforcing the compulsory education law. The suit was dismissed Nov. 20, 1995.

Gordon said he believes the criminal case is the first case of its kind in Maryland -- at least since a state law 10 years ago transferred responsibility for monitoring home school education programs from the state Department of Education to local school boards.

He said that Battles has offered to show prosecutors Stanford Achievement Test results that indicate that her daughter, Emily McCann, is scoring in the 61st percentile for second-graders, even though she is only completing the equivalent of the first grade.

School officials declined to comment on the case yesterday.

But Dennis Younger, the retired director of curriculum for the Anne Arundel schools, said the law requires parents who home-school their children either to submit a portfolio of the child's work for approval twice a year or to allow a church or secular group that has approval from the state Department of Education to provide a curriculum.

State figures show that 8,098 children in Maryland were taught in approved home school education programs in the 1994-1995 school year, 1,003 students in Anne Arundel County.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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