San Juan Unified School District officials show no sign of yielding in their truancy case against a home-schooling family and, to the contrary, are taking steps to crack down on all home-schooling. Joseph Tucker, the district coordinator of the Student Attendance Review Board plans to address the issue with state education officials next month, seeking to reform and clarify California compulsory education laws, according to the Sacramento Bee. A call to Tucker was not returned.
As WorldNetDaily reported last month, Tucker referred the case of Sandra and David Sorensen to the Sacramento County district attorney’s office for prosecution. The Sorensens face up to one year in jail if found guilty of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” To Tucker, who enforces state compulsory attendance laws, the Sorensen’s 10-year-old son has been truant since January when the couple decided to home-school, formally withdrawing him from Carmichael Elementary
“It seems that once you enroll a child in the San Juan School District they think he’s a possession for life,” Sandra
Sorensen told WorldNetDaily.
Sorensen claims her son, who suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was being harassed at school to the point of damaging his well-being. She cites an unusual policy of children giving suspensions to other children. Sorensen says her son began bringing home green cards apparently filled out by children and signed by a teacher and the principal in October. By December, the 10-year-old was coming home with numerous suspensions each
day and, as a result, suffered a loss of self-esteem.
According to Sorensen, when she informed the school that she had decided to remove her son from the “unhealthy environment” and home-school, Carmichael principal Deborah Kraus made numerous threats in person and over the telephone to her over the decision. Kraus did not return calls seeking comment, and her assistant referred “questions regarding the Sorensen case” to Tucker. Sorensen sees Tucker’s pursuit of the case, including his request for a copy of her “appropriate business license,” Department of Justice fingerprint certification, and a copy of her Bachelors Degree and college transcripts as a continuation of the school’s harassment.
“By law I’m required to fully and impartially investigate any complaints in regards to truancy and to verify whether or not if in fact the student is truant,” Tucker maintains, and stated the requested documentation was to help him “ascertain that this is indeed a private school.”
California education code does not address home-schooling and is considered by the state to be “unauthorized.” The compulsory education law which dates back to 1874 requires “each person between 6 and 18 years of age to attend public full-time day school … unless legally exempt.” Carolyn Pirillo, a deputy general counsel in the state department of education lists the exemptions as attendance at a private, full-time day school, education via a credentialed tutor or independent study through the public school district.
Private schools are neither regulated nor monitored by the state, and are not required to comply with public school
district standards. And because the education code doesn’t specifically define what a private school is, many families have elected to set up private schools within their homes. The Sorensens have done just that, filing an affidavit, called the R-4, required by private schools with the state.
Tucker told the Sacramento Bee that receipt of the affidavit by the county is not an endorsement of a private school, and until the issue is sorted out, there can’t be a gap in a student’s enrollment in public school. The law does not require that private school instructors hold a teaching credential, but they must be “capable of teaching.” Because the
“wording is vague, the law is subject to debate,” Tucker is quoted by the Bee as saying.
“They’re going to try to get my R-4 annulled and then try to prosecute me. That’s not fair. I’ve followed the letter of the law and they’re bullying us,” Sorensen complains.
“What the district is doing is embellishing [education code] to read into the statute what is not there … to keep families from home schooling,” says Will Rogers, an attorney retained by the California Homeschool Network for the Sorensens.
“An R-4 is only a registration document,” Pirillo told WorldNetDaily, “Filing it doesn’t transform the situation into a private school. A parent is not a private school.”
Pirillo disagrees that the law is vague. “Teachers in the public school system and private tutors are required by law to hold teaching credentials. Tutors or parents without credentials can’t declare themselves private schools to avoid the requirements. If everybody in the state said ‘I’m a tutor without a credential so I’m a private school’ then what would be the point in requiring a credential of a tutor?” Pirillo adds that case law dating back to 1953 shows
the courts interpreting the legislation requiring tutors to be credentialed as “not meaningless.” Pirillo cites People v. Turner and In re Shinn as two published appellate court rulings that reject the concept that parents may call their own home instruction program a “private school” in order to avoid the credential requirement.
As the San Juan Unified School district officials build their legal case against the Sorensens and seek law reform and clarification from the state, Sandra Sorensen asks “Why go to this length? Should I give in and give up my rights to see how my son gets educated because that’s what they want?”
Carol Guardia, a former child welfare and attendance coordinator for Sacramento County insists district officials are merely looking out for the educational welfare of the students. “For every competent home-schooler out there, there are 300 who are not, using it for an excuse to keep their kids home,” Guardia told WorldNetDaily. “There are hundreds of thousands that are ‘home-schooling.’ What would be involved in pulling these kids in? It would be a police state.”
A “police state” is precisely what home-school advocates fear, and what the Sorensens feel they’re getting a taste of. “I think at this point they’re not going to stop until they get what they want,” says Sandra Sorensen. “I hadn’t considered a lawsuit against the school district. But now we’re considering it.”
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