Thousands of students from across the nation have weighed into the arguments over the recent court ruling in California that announced there was no legal provision to allowing homeschooling in the state.
“The court cannot ‘make’ something illegal – that’s the legislature’s job. Sheesh!” wrote Jon Chi Lou, of Heritage Christian High School. And Hye-Sung F. Gehring added, “This is ridiculous. California is retarded. Always has been.”
The comments are just two from the many pages posted on The Wall, a comment section of a Facebook group called Make Homeschooling Legal in California. The forum-type operation on the social networking site was launched by a 16-year-old from Virginia, Sera Woodruff, who told WND she wanted to let people her own age know about the decision and its possible impacts.
The California case stemmed from the family’s juvenile proceeding. That case already had been closed by the court when court-appointed attorneys for their children appealed specifically trying to have homeschooling banned, and the ruling from Appeals Court Judge H. Walt Croskey granted their wishes.
The court ruling said: “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.'”
Those words echoed the ideas of 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.”
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 being allowed 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.”
Nor did the family’s religious beliefs matter to the court.
Their “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,” the court said.
The decision sent shockwaves through the homeschooling community in the United States, and statements denouncing it already have been issued by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.
Several petitions also have been assembled to convey they unhappiness the court decision left behind, and one of those is being organized by the Home School Legal Defense Association, where Sera works while not pursuing her advanced homeschool classes including Arabic.
Her efforts are not connected to HSLDA, but she said she wanted to introduce the issue to the networking site because, “I realized there were a lot of teenagers who weren’t even aware” of the issue.
To date, the group has nearly 3,100 members and it’s growing.
“I really wanted to heighten awareness, so I’ve put up a lot of links, to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s statement,” and others, she told WND.
“Please sign this petition to legalize homeschooling in California,” the group introduction says, including the link to HSLDA..
Quoting from the HSLDA website, the forum continues: “The court could have restricted its decision to the facts before it, but instead, it issued a broad ruling that effectively outlaws home education in California. The court also certified its decision for publication, which means that the decision can now be cited as legal authority by all other courts in California.”
The HSLDA effort will be a formal petition to the California Supreme Court to “depublish” the opinion, which would limit its impact.
There has been a petition for rehearing submitted on behalf of the family to the 2nd Appellate District Division Three court that generated the opinion in the case of the family of Phillip and Mary Long by Gary Kreep, of the United States Justice Foundation.
The state legislature also has given signs it could get involved, and officials have confirmed that several members of Congress are expressing a high level of concern over the result.
A Facebook group posting confirmed just a few days ago that the petition signature total already has surpassed 100,000. “Keep spreading the word!” the group site urged.
Also posted are links to the ruling itself as well as a commentary on homeschooling by James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family Christian publishing powerhouse, and other locations with information.
“The reality is that the Constitution did not specifically state that the parent had the right to choose their child’s educational form because they didn’t think they had to,” wrote Heidi Elizabeth Van Loenen. “The intention was that such rights were already the people’s and should not have to be dictated by the government: only if the right was being infringed upon did it need to become law by stating it in an amendment.”
“I think it is time to send all our judges back to school to relearn the Constitution and its meaning,” she continued.
“There is no ‘best way’ for folks to be schooled. It ultimately should come down to what’s best for the person in question, and that will be different for everyone on a case-by-case basis,” added Jeremy Closs.
Such statements of support from Schwarzenegger and O’Connell are “good to hear, but it doesn’t fix the court decision,” Susan Beatty, co-founder of the Christian Home Educators Association of California, told the Los Angeles Times.
The Facebook forum is open, and even opponents of homeschooling are welcome to vent. But Katrina Huang of San Diego tried to explain her position in support of homeschooling.
“Most of my friends think that my parents are overprotective creeps who can’t keep their noses out of my life. I believe that parents are to represent God. I’m not saying they’re perfect, but they represent Him as well as they can. We, to some extent, view God as we view our parents. Last I checked, God doesn’t only monitor us sometimes. He’s checking on us all the time. God’s the ultimate ‘over-protective parent,’ eh?
“My mom’s always been able to spend one on one time with me to work through whatever I don’t understand. Instead of viewing my parents as my parents, I see them as my friends and helpers. They’re my mentors. I can’t understand what the government or anyone else has against that,” she said.
The HSLDA also is offering a suggestion to consider an amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically recognizing parental rights. That effort already is under way under the banner of Parental Rights.
Spokesman Allan Carlson of the The World Congress of Families told WND earlier if California’s ban would be allowed to stand, the state would be on par with Germany and Brazil, two other governments that ban homeschooling.
In other significant developments already.
- Assemblyman Joel Anderson has proposed a resolution in the state Legislature in California that calls for the Croskey ruling to be overturned.
- Gov. Schwarzenegger said, “if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights, then, as elected officials, we will.”
- California Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said, “Parents still have the right to homeschool in this state.”
- A separate petition appeals to Schwarzenegger and the state legislature and is being run by the Pacific Justice Institute, which is working with the website PetitionsToday.org.
- And yet another petition also is under way, at the ReverseTheRuling.com website. That organization offers information for homeschoolers who want to follow the California case, because of that state’s influence throughout the nation. It was assembled by the organization Learning By Grace, an outreach dedicated to providing parents with innovative online Christian homeschool materials.
Pacific Justice also is representing Sunland Christian School, which has been working with the family’s children in a study program, on an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The Longs previously told WND of their concerns with the public school district’s advocacy for alternative sexual lifestyles and promotion of the theory of evolution.
“The parent-child relationship existed long before any government and makes it the responsibility of the parent to educate the child,” Phillip Long told California reporters.
He said the responsibility includes protecting children from things that are hazardous “emotionally” as well as physically.
Croskey’s ruling reversed a decision from Superior Court Judge Stephen Marpet, who said “parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home.”
As WND has reported, the Longs had their children enrolled in Sunland Christian School, a private homeschooling program.
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.”
The Private and Home Educators of California organization is posting a list of updates on the situation, and also a legal fact sheet for those who want to homeschool in California.