Oral arguments were heard today in the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, with the fate of homeschooling in California at stake.
As WND reported earlier, the court’s decision four months ago to compel two homeschooled children to attend a public or qualifying private school effectively stated that parents held neither a statutory right nor a constitutional right to provide homeschooling for their own children.
HSLDA chairman, Michael Farris
After much public and political outcry, the appeal court agreed to revisit its prior ruling.
Michael Farris, chairman and co-founder of the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association, was one of many attorneys from several organizations urging the court to reconsider, and he presented the day’s final argument.
“Anybody that claims they know which way the court will decide would be wrong,” Farris told WND.
“The judges asked very hard, pointed questions,” he said. “There was no indication that they thought their prior ruling was wrong.”
Specifically, Farris said, the judges asked why they should permit homeschooling when California changed the law to withdraw it from the statutes in the early 1900s.
Attorneys advocating homeschooling argued that when California in 1967 added the singular word “person” to the list of those that can operate a legitimate private school, it opened the door for homeschooling. “If a person can provide education, if one person can operate a school,” argued the attorneys, “then why not a parent?”
“Their questions were about the 1910s; our answer was from the 1960s,” Farris told WND.
Furthermore, said Farris, “I argued that the California constitution requires the state to encourage all education. It’s the court’s duty, rather than banning education, to encourage it.”
He also urged the judges to take into account the thousands of people who have implied from the 1967 law that homeschooling is permissible “and not willy-nilly overturn that practice.”
An estimated 166,000 children are being homeschooled in California, and their parents and advocates have expressed concern that the court’s original ruling would leave parents who educate their children at home open to criminal truancy charges and civil charges for child neglect.
Some grounds for that concern may come from the appeal court’s first ruling, where it 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.”
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, a parental rights advocacy organization involved in the case, told WND earlier, “We are looking forward to this opportunity to defend the thousands of families who are making sacrifices to teach their children at home. The state should be applauding, not threatening, these families,” he said.
Though he expressed concern over which way the judges would decide, Farris told WND, “We hope that the court reverses its decision and restores homeschool freedom to California.”