Lila M. Ferguson, 38, and Molly M. Williams, 42, who were living together in New Haven at the time, took plea deals that lowered their Class D felonies to Class A misdemeanors for a sentence of one year of probation.
“It's retarded,” Ferguson said about the charges after the court hearing Wednesday.
“It's just what it is. It's just politics,” Williams added. “I think they want to go after anyone they can get a hold of.”
Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Patricia Pikel said she could not comment on the cases because the women have not yet been sentenced.
Ferguson and Williams were found guilty of removing their sons – who were 14 and 7 at the time – from public school in January 2006. Both told school officials they would be home schooling their children, according to the probable-cause affidavits. Ferguson did not enroll her son in a public school again until Sept. 16, 2008, and Williams did not do so until Jan. 12.
Williams admitted that they were guilty of removing their children from school, but school officials at the time didn't tell them what they should be teaching their children so they did what they thought was best.
“We went out and bought books on what we thought was appropriate, and we took them to (the) library and let them run around and play games,” she said, explaining that they were told there was no particular curriculum they had to follow – which is true, according to state statute.
For recording purposes, parents must keep attendance records when home schooling a child but “solely to verify the enrollment and attendance of a student upon request of the state superintendent or superintendent of the school corporation in which the nonpublic school is located,” according to Indiana Code.
A home school is considered a nonpublic, or private, school by the state. Other than that, the state does not mandate certain subject requirements and does not require testing.
When it came to the neglect charges, the women said they were to provide their children with “education as required by law.” The defense attorneys said this was unconstitutional and vague.
Motions to dismiss the charges earlier in the court dealings were denied, and now Ferguson and Williams face sentencing Dec. 29.
“I just want it done and over with,” Williams said.
As a condition of the plea deals, Ferguson and Williams must enroll their children in school, the children cannot have any unexcused absences and any medical-related absences must be verified by a doctor's note.
This is the first time Allen County has prosecuted a case of educational neglect.
The closest known case was in Wabash, when a woman was charged with the same crime because her fifth-grade son missed 10 days of school the previous year, six of them unexcused.
Also, he was tardy 28 times and, according to his teacher, sometimes arrived dirty, smelling of urine and without his homework. The woman later agreed to plead guilty in return for a 1.5-year suspended sentence, which she is serving on probation instead of jail, as long as her son attends school.