By Hilary White

PRICE, Utah, December 18, 2007 ( – An apparent paperwork error by state officials has resulted in a jail threat to a Utah homeschooling family. Denise Mafi must enrol all her children in a state school immediately or face the state seizing them and even a possible jail sentence for truancy.

State officials told Mafi that she had not filed the necessary paperwork but had expected to have truancy charges dismissed because of the clerical error. Instead, World Net Daily reports that Judge Scott N. Johansen threatened to take the children into state custody because Mafi had failed to file an affidavit saying her children would be schooled at home through an online state curriculum programme.

Under Utah law, a child “shall be excused from attendance” at the public school if the parents file an annual signed affidavit with the minor’s school district saying the child will be instructed in the subjects that the State Board of Education requires in public schools. It must affirm that the child will be instructed for the same length of time as children receiving instruction in public schools. Failure to comply with the affidavit requirement can result in up to six months in jail.

Utah does not require that the State Board of Education monitor curriculum or even supervise testing.

Mafi said she had submitted the required affidavit for the 2006-2007 school year by fax but, although a source inside the District affirmed that Mafi had come to pick up the forms, the state officials lost her paperwork. Now officials are claiming that she did not file the affidavit and when Mafi appeared in court, a plea agreement arranged with the prosecutor was thrown out by the judge.

Mafi told WND, “He threw out the plea and we go to trial on January 9th. I have no chance with this judge. He will find me guilty. He already has. So I will probably be spending some time in jail.”

Mafi has been homeschooling her children for nearly ten years without problems. Although she has already received the go-ahead from state officials for the 2007-2008 school year, the judge ordered all the children to be enrolled in school this year.

“If it was any other person in the state, they can put their children in an online public school and it’s acceptable,” she told WND. “I can’t do it. I cannot pull my children out and put them in a private school of my choice.”

The Virginia-based International Home School Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) told, however, that this judge has a bias against homeschooling and “a history of being overturned” on these kinds of rulings. 

The group’s spokesman said the situation is “irregular at best”. “Judge Johansen took jurisdiction and has ordered that all the children in the family must be in school for the coming year.” Mafi is expected to appeal.

During the proceedings, Judge Johansen told Mafi that homeschooling had been “a failure”. 

To express concerns:
Judge Scott N. Johansen
Carbon County Juvenile Court
149 East 100 South
Price, UT 84501
Phone: (435) 636-3401
Fax: (435) 637-7349