Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A ruling from an appeals court in California that a homeschooling family must enroll their children in a public school or “legally qualified” private school is alarming because of the way the court opted to order those results, according to a team of legislative analysts who have worked on homeschooling issues in California for decades.
The ruling, when it was released several days ago, sent ripples of shock through the homeschooling community.
The decision from the 2nd Appellate Court in Los Angeles granted a special petition brought by lawyers appointed to represent the two youngest children after the family’s homeschooling was brought to the attention of child advocates. The lawyers appointed by the state were unhappy with a lower court’s ruling that allowed the family to continue homeschooling, and specifically challenged that on appeal.
Roy Hanson, chief of the Private and Home Educators of California, said the circumstances of the Long family left the court with the option of handling such a ruling for their particular circumstances in a juvenile court setting.
“Normally in a dependency court action, they simply make a ruling that will affect that family. It accomplishes the same thing, meaning they would force [the family] to place their minor children into school,” he said.
Such rulings on a variety of issues always are “done in the best interests of the child” and are not unusual, he said.
But in this case, the court said went much further, essentially concluding that the state provided no circumstance that allowed parents to school their own children at home.
“We find no reason to strike down the Legislature’s evaluation of what constitutes an adequate education scheme sufficient to promote the ‘general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence.’ We agree … ‘the educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education,’” the ruling said.
Specifically, the appeals court said, the trial court had found that “keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ ‘cloistered’ setting.”
Further, the appeals ruling said, California law requires “persons between the ages of six and 18″ to be in school, “the public full-time day school,” with exemptions allowed only for those in a “private full-time day school” or those “instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught.”
Such a holding, if unchanged, could ultimately be used against the tens of thousands who currently are homeschooling in California by fulfilling the state’s requirements to establish a private school in a home, and enrolling the family’s children in that school, observers said.
For homeschoolers in California, Hanson said, “there may be everywhere from concern to panic, just based on not knowing what the [ultimate] results will be.”
He said his group has worked to defeat similar arguments in the past, and because of those previous results, he wondered whether the court or the children’s lawyers were pursuing some sort of “agenda” with the case.
“They either were trying to put on an agenda, or they were so frustrated they felt this was their only option,” he said. But in either case, the decision is “not very sound.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association, the world’s premiere international advocacy organization for homeschoolers, emphasized that the ruling made no changes in California law regarding homeschooling at this time.
While the decision from the appeals court “has caused much concern among California homeschoolers,” the HSLDA said, there are no immediate changes any homeschoolers need to address.
The group said it is looking at the background of the case to determine its “implications,” and will be releasing its analysis soon.
The Longs earlier told WND they were considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court because of the impact of the order for their family, as well as the precedent that could be construed.
They have disputed with local officials over homeschooling and other issues for years, they said. In at least two previous decisions, courts affirmed their right to homeschool, they said.
The current case was brought by two attorneys who had been appointed by the state to represent the family’s minor children in a dependency case stemming from accusations of abuse that resulted from the parents’ decision to impose discipline on their children with spankings. The case actually had been closed out by the court as resolved when the lawyers filed their special appeal.
According to unpublished court documents, there also are in the past a series of other allegations that a family acquaintance molested one of the children as well as claims regarding physical punishment relating to one child’s decision to disobey household rules about being out at night. Many of the allegations contained in the unpublished documents are, according to the court itself, disputed by different people involved.
But the results of the situation, until this point, always had been court rulings that affirmed the parents’ right to homeschool their children.
Phillip Long told WND one of the early disputes arose some 15 years ago because his family was homeschooling with no “umbrella” organization. That’s why the youngest children most recently had been working under an independent study program with Sunland Christian Academy, he said.
The court ruling, however, revealed a judicial dislike of that school, since the judges specifically ordered the children would not be allowed to participate in its programs.
Phillip Long also told WND his children had written to the court objecting to the attorneys’ actions, without effect.
The appeals court words held echoes of similar ideas expressed by officials from Germany, where homeschooling has been outlawed since 1938 under a law adopted when Adolf Hitler decided he wanted the state, and no one else, to control the minds of the nation’s youth.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has said “school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
Phillip Long earlier told WND that he would be working on an appeal. He has re-confirmed that is one of his goals.
The appeals decision also rejected religious concerns.
The family’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” are “not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California’s compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights.”
“We just don’t want them teaching our children,” he told WND. “They teach things that are totally contrary to what we believe. They put questions in our children’s minds we don’t feel they’re ready for.
“When they are much more mature, they can deal with these issues, alternative lifestyles, and such, or whether they came from primordial slop. At the present time it’s my job to teach them the correct way of thinking,” he said.
A number of groups already have assembled in California under the Rescue Your Child slogan to encourage parents to withdraw their children from the state’s public school system.
It’s because the California Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked together to establish Senate Bill 777 and Assembly Bill 394 as law, plans that institutionalize the promotion of homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism and other alternative lifestyle choices.
“First, [California] law allowed public schools to voluntarily promote homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality. Then, the law required public schools to accept homosexual, bisexual and transsexual teachers as role models for impressionable children. Now, the law has been changed to effectively require the positive portrayal of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality to 6 million children in California government-controlled schools,” said Thomasson.
Even insiders joined in the call for an abandonment of California’s public districts. Veteran public school teacher Nadine Williams of Torrance said the sexual indoctrination laws have motivated her to keep her grandchildren out of the very public schools she used to support.
The Discover Christian Schools website reports getting thousands of hits daily from parents and others seeking information about alternatives to California’s public schools.
WND reported leaders of the campaign called California Exodus say they hope to encourage parents of 600,000 children to withdraw them from the public districts this year.
The new law itself technically bans in any school texts, events, class or activities any discriminatory bias against those who have chosen alternative sexual lifestyles, said Meredith Turney, legislative liaison for Capitol Resource Institute.
There are no similar protections for students with traditional or conservative lifestyles and beliefs, however. Offenders will face the wrath of the state Department of Education, up to and including lawsuits.
“SB 777 will result in reverse discrimination against students with religious and traditional family values. These students have lost their voice as the direct result of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s unbelievable decision. The terms ‘mom and dad’ or ‘husband and wife’ could promote discrimination against homosexuals if a same-sex couple is not also featured,” she said.
Karen England, chief of CRI, told WND that the law is not a list of banned words, including “mom” and “dad.” But she said the requirement is that the law bans discriminatory bias and the effect will be to ban such terminology.
“Having ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ promotes a discriminatory bias. You have to either get rid of ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ or include everything when talking about [parental issues],” she said. “They [promoters of sexual alternative lifestyles] do consider that discriminatory.”
The California plan still is facing a court challenge on its constitutionality and a possible vote of the people of California if an initiative effort succeeds.