California Homeschooling Parents Treated as Criminals
Homeschooling parents in California could be facing criminal sanctions if the ruling on In Re Rachel L. in the Court of Appeals in California stands. The Court determined that parents who homeschool their children without a valid state teaching credential "may be subject to a criminal complaint against them. …"
The ruling reversed a superior court's decision that found that "parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home."
California law requires children to be enrolled in public full-time day school unless they are enrolled in private school, the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential, or some other exemption applies.
Homeschool parents in California comply with state law by enrolling their children in private schools that offer an independent study program that can be taken at home. This practice has been recognized by the California Department of Education and has not presented a problem until now. In this case, the children were enrolled in Sunland Christian School, a private school in full compliance of state law, but the Court called it a "ruse."
This seems unconscionable when estimates are that almost 200,000 children are educated at home in California. The Court's suggestion that they should all be subject to criminal sanctions would be comical, if it weren't so serious.
Moreover, the Court seemed to bypass the Supreme Court's long history of protecting a parent's right to direct the education of their children.1
That right, of course, does not give parents a right to abuse their children, and the sad part about this case is that parental abuse was alleged. Wherever there is abuse, children should always be protected, even from a parent. But that is a bad reflection on parenting, not on homeschooling.
Though the Court may have been trying to do the right thing for the children involved in this specific case, it should not have made such a broad ruling. On top of that, the Court asked for the opinion to be published, which means that it can be used to attack other homeschooling parents.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has drafted a petition to request the "depublishing" of the decision, so that it cannot be use to harass homeschool families until the appellate process takes its course.
The decision is currently being appealed to the State Supreme Court.
- Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).
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