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Glen woman sues over home school arrest

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - Updated: 6:10 PM

By CHARLIE KRAEBEL

Recorder Editor

GLEN -- A Montgomery County woman charged in 2009 with child endangerment after failing to register her home-schooled children with the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is suing the county, the county sheriff and a former investigator, claiming her constitutional rights were violated.

Margie Cressy's lawsuit, filed Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court, seeks a jury trial and an unspecified amount of damages.

The charges against Cressy and her husband, Richard, were dropped in May 2010 after a judge determined the couple filed the proper paperwork with the F-FCSD and eventually straightened the matter out. The case drew national media attention.

It was unknown Wednesday why Richard Cressy was not named as a plaintiff in the case.

Amsterdam attorney Elmer Robert Keach III, Margie Cressy's attorney, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeff Smith could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to a copy of the complaint, Cressy claims that former sheriff's investigator William Gilston, who retired in 2011, threatened to "make an example" of the family during the course of his investigation, made a "series of negative and insulting comments to Mrs. Cressy about parents who homeschool their children," and refused to meet with the woman's four children when offered the chance to interview them.

The complaint notes that the Cressy family "is deeply religious," stating that Margie Cressy chose to home school her children on those grounds. Court documents indicate that the materials she used to educate her children came from Alpha Omega Publications, an Iowa-based Christian publishing company listed in the recommendations of the state Department of Education for parents who choose to home school.

According to court documents, Cressy informed Gilston that she "erroneously believed" she met the filing requirements when she filed a home instruction plan with the state several years earlier. Cressy claims in her lawsuit she did not realize she had to resubmit any paperwork after that.

According to state home-school regulations, parents must send the school district in which they live a notice of intent to instruct a child at home. Then they must submit an individualized home instruction plan to the district that includes syllabi and curriculum materials, dates for submission of quarterly reports and names of those who provide instruction.

At the time of her arrest, Margie Cressy said the family first started home schooling their children more than a decade ago when they lived in the Gloversville Enlarged School District. When they moved to the F-FCSD three years later, she said she didn't realize she had to resubmit the necessary paperwork.

After her initial meeting with Gilston, the Cressys met with then-Fonda-Fultonville Superintendent James Hoffman, who conducted an assessment of their children. The family's home-school plan was approved after the Cressys' application and Hoffman's review of their education plan, according to court documents.

Cressy claims despite approval from the school district, Gilston went ahead and arrested the woman and her husband Dec. 30, 2009, charging each of them with four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The charges were dropped by a county family court judge on May 27, 2010.

Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as court documents claim Gilston acted with the approval of the sheriff. Court documents also claim the sheriff made false statements about the couple in a letter published in an area newspaper following the arrest.

Cressy is claiming her constitutional rights were violated under the terms of the fourth amendment, which protects people from malicious prosecution or from being arrested without probable cause, and the 14th amendment, part of which says citizens are entitled to due process and equal protection under the law.

     

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