Homeschool supporters and pro-family advocates spent today praising a California court ruling that affirmed the right of parents to direct their children’s education.
The upbeat reaction was triggered by the decision announced early today by the 2nd Appellate District in Los Angeles that affirmed the right of California parents to homeschool.
The opinion said state law permits homeschooling “as a species of private school education” but that statutory permission for parents to teach their own children could be “overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared dependent.”
The long-awaited decision resolves many questions that had developed in homeschooling circles across the nation when the same court earlier found that parents had no such rights – statutorily or constitutionally – in California.
The ruling left pro-family organizations praising the decision.
“We’re pleased the appeals court recognized the rights of parents to provide education for their children,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. “This decision reaffirms the constitutional right that’s afforded to parents in directing the education of their children. It’s an important victory for families who cherish the freedom to ensure that their children receive a high quality education that is inherent in homeschooling.”
The 2nd Appellate District in Los Angeles, reversing its own ruling from February, ruled that state law does permit homeschooling and concluded “home schools may constitute private schools.” The court said: “Parents possess a constitutional liberty interest in directing the education of their children, but the right must yield to state interests in certain circumstances.”
The case came out of a juvenile court situation in which family members told WND they objected to the public school’s pro-homosexual indoctrination program in California. In fact, just yesterday, California lawmakers decided to mandate a day of celebration and honor for Harvey Milk, the late San Francisco supervisor who was an activist for homosexuality.
The ACLJ, along with many other organizations, had filed an amicus brief in the case which had been interpreted as threatening the very practice of homeschooling in California.
Gary Kreep, from the United States Justice Foundation, played a key role in applying to the appeals court for a rehearing in the case, a motion which the court did grant. That move effectively discarded the earlier ruling, resulting in today’s positive decision for homeschoolers.
“I and the other attorneys representing the father are extremely grateful in that the appellate court took our arguments and pleadings to heart and affirmed the right of all families to homeschool their children,” he told WND.
California state Sen. Tom Harmon agreed.
“As guardians of their children, parents have an unquestionable right to determine the best method of instruction as long as it adequately prepares the child for a stable, productive life,” he said. “Only in cases of abuse and neglect should the state intervene in these situations.
“I’m happy the court has decided to recognize homeschooling, as practiced by 200,000 parents across the state, as an equal and valid option for parents in California,” he said.
“In a reversal of its previous decision, the court today clearly upheld the right of families to homeschool under California law,” said the Pacific Justice Institute. “In doing so, the court agreed with most of the arguments advanced by Pacific Justice Institute in the briefing and at oral argument. The court deferred to the state legislature, which has allowed homeschooling to flourish in the state with few restrictions.
“At the same time, the court stopped short of declaring the right to homeschool to be absolute in all circumstances, holding that in rare circumstances, the state may have a compelling interest sufficient to prevent families under the jurisdiction of a dependency court through charges of abuse or neglect from homeschooling. The appellate court remanded the Rachel L. case to the trial court for a specific determination as to the L. family at the center of this case, although the trial court recently determined it no longer needed to exercise jurisdiction over the family,” the organization said.
“This is a tremendous victory for thousands of homeschooling families in California. The pall of uncertainty that has hung over so many families for the last few months is gone. Our attorneys will be thoroughly analyzing this 44-page decision and will be communicating further with California homeschooling families as to its additional implications,” said PJI President Brad Dacus.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for homeschooling families, and indeed all parents, throughout California,” said Damien Schiff of Pacific Legal Foundation.
“The court of appeal’s retreat from its earlier assertion that only credentialed teachers can properly educate your kids at home affirms the fundamental rights of families to guide the upbringing and education of their children. Parents must be the ones to decide where their children will be educated, not the state.
“And further, it’s a victory for the cause of excellence in education because parental choice and educational competition are powerful dynamics for improving our floundering system,” Schiff said.
“This is a great victory for homeschool freedom,” said Michael Farris, one of the team of attorneys who argued the case before the court and chairman of Home School Legal Defense Association.
“I have never seen such an impressive array of people and organizations coming to the defense of homeschooling. The team effort was remarkable,” he said. “Tens of thousands of California parents teaching over 166,000 homeschooled children are now breathing easier.”
“Parents have a constitutional right to make educational choices for their children,” said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. “Thousands of California families have educated their children successfully through homeschooling. We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which protects the rights of families and protects an avenue of education that has proven to benefit children time and time again.
“We are pleased for our client in this case, a father who is now free to establish his right to continue educating his children at home,” McCaleb said.
Liberty Counsel, which represented members of Congress in the dispute, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled: “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”
“We are pleased that the court recognized what all other states have also recognized, namely that the child is not the mere creature of the state. Homeschooling is a constitutionally protected alternative to placing one’s children in government schools, which frequently push harmful political and social agendas,” said Steve Crampton, general counsel for the organization.
Related story on the court opinion: