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 “breathtaking” ruling from a California appeals court that could subject the parents of 166,000 students in the state to criminal sanctions will be taken to the state Supreme Court.
“The scope of this decision by the appellate court is breathtaking,” he said. “It not only attacks traditional homeschooling, but also calls into question homeschooling through charter schools and teaching children at home via independent study through public and private school.”
“If not reversed, the parents of the more than 166,000 students currently receiving an education at home will be subject to criminal sanctions,” he said.
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 challenged it on appeal.
Justice H. Walt Croskey, whose opinion was joined by two other judges, then ordered: “Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program.”
The determination reversed a decision from Superior Court Judge Stephen Marpet, who ruled “parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home.”
But Croskey, without hearing arguments from the school, opined that the situation was a “ruse of enrolling [children] in a private school and then letting them stay home and be taught by a non-credentialed parent.”
Officials with the school said they asked Pacific Justice to work on the Supreme Court appeal because the organization “has been in full compliance with the requirements of the law for more than 23 years.”
“We’ve never been given an opportunity to represent our case in the Court of Appeal,” Terry Neven, the president of the school, said. “Consequently, we are excited that PJI will represent us before the California Supreme Court so that the rights of homeschooling families are preserved.”
The ruling, on which WND previously reported, also issued a further warning of potential penalties for parents, this time in civil court.
It said under a section titled “Consequences of Parental Denial of a Legal Education” that “parents are subject to being ordered to enroll their children in an appropriate school or education program and provide proof of enrollment to the court, and willful failure to comply with such an order may be punished by a fine for civil contempt.”
The school’s website notes it offers a homeschool/independent study program that is accredited. It began in Los Angeles in 1986 with 24 students and now serves more than 3,000 families.
“While SCS is a Christian program, we enroll any family desiring assistance in teaching their own children at home. All we ask is that each family respect our values,” the school said.
“The future of homeschooling (both public and private) in California requires the reversal of this decision,” Neven said.
“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 the state provided no circumstance that allowed parents to school their own children at home.
Specifically, the appeals court affirmed, 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.”
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.”
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.
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 Longs earlier told WND they also are 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.
“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.