A local woman who home-schools her children is suing Montgomery County, the county sheriff and the investigator whom she believes violated her constitutional rights.
In 2009, Margie Cressy and her husband, Richard, were charged with four counts of endangering the welfare of a child after forgetting to file home-schooling registration forms with the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District. The case was dismissed in Family Court more than two years ago, but not before sparking national media attention and a debate over the merits of home-schooling.
According to her lawsuit, filed Dec. 21 in U.S. District Court, Cressy “suffered public embarrassment, scrutiny and humiliation as a result of her arrest and subsequent prosecution and the national public attention it brought.”
The family decided to home-school their four sons in part because of their devout Christian faith. They used school materials from a highly recommended Christian educational publisher and even had a room in the house set aside for teaching. The boys were tested occasionally by the state as all students are, with solid results.
The case started when a neighbor called in an anonymous tip that Cressy’s sons were outside during school hours. William Gilston, then an investigator with the Sheriff’s Department, followed up on the case, interviewing Cressy in what she called an “unnecessarily contentious” manner. The complaint quotes Gilston telling Cressy, “We are going to make an example out of you,” even after she offered to show him proof of her children’s academic prowess.
The couple was arrested and charged at the end of 2009, after they had filed all of the correct papers and ironed things out with James Hoffman, then Fonda-Fultonville’s superintendent.
In the months that followed, Cressy claims, both Gilston and Sheriff Michael Amato made a series of knowingly false statements to the media before the case was dismissed.
She quoted an interview with the Gloversville Leader-Herald newspaper in which Amato said that Cressy “knowingly did not file the required paperwork with the local school district for seven years and could not provide adequate proof that the education of their children had taken place.”
She says these allegations were obviously not true, were dismissed by the courts and “were motivated by bad faith and malice.”
The suit marks a change from Cressy’s past thoughts on returning to court. When the case was dropped, she told The Daily Gazette, “It’s done. No more court for us.”
At the time, Richard Cressy said all of the legal hoopla made it harder to home-school. Cressy still home-schools her children, according to the suit, but now she wants to go to trial. She could not be reached Thursday for comment on her change of heart.
Elmer Robert Keach, Cressy’s attorney, was not available for comment Thursday on what his client will be seeking in damages.
Amato declined comment on the lawsuit.