A California court has asked a teachers’ union to provide its opinion on homeschooling, and the resulting decision will impact the rights of parents in the state to determine their own children’s education.
As WND reported one day ago, the California Court of Appeal for the 2nd Appellate District granted a petition for rehearing in a juvenile case involving the family of Phillip and Mary Long.
The previous decision determined parents have neither statutory nor constitutional authority to school their children, causing a backlash of surprise and horror from homeschooling advocates across the nation, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The new order confirms the court is expanding its decision far beyond a single juvenile case to include an assessment of all state laws and opinions regarding homeschooling, as well as an evaluation of whether the state provisions follow the U.S. Constitution.
Additionally, the court asked the state’s superintendent of public instruction, the California State Board of Education, the Los Angeles school district, the California Teachers Association and the Los Angeles teachers’ union for their opinions on homeschooling.
The court denied a request by Sunland Christian School, the independent program in which the Long children were enrolled, to participate directly in the case.
Instead, it granted that school permission to file an amicus brief on the issues. Other homeschooling interests were invited to file such briefs, and the court said they would be considered.
Oral arguments are scheduled in June.
The court’s opinion said the homeschooling case arose from a dependency case brought in juvenile court. In the process, attorneys assigned by the court to the family’s two younger children sought a court order for them to be enrolled in a public or qualifying private school.
The district court denied the request, but the appellate court overturned the decision and granted the attorneys’ request.
The appeals court noted its first opinion concluded the parents held neither a statutory right nor a constitutional right to provide homeschooling to their own children.
The court said its new ruling, when it is issued, will address whether state law allows homeschooling and, if so, under what circumstances, whether parents are allowed to homeschool their own children and whether California limits meet the demands of the U.S. Constitution.
“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children,” said Gary McCaleb, a senior counsel for the ADF. “Because this ruling impacts all of Californians, we believe the case deserves a second look.”
“Another look at this case will help ensure that the fundamental rights of parents are fully protected,” Kreep added.
The original ruling concluded parents who educate their children at home could be criminally liable under California law. Homeschooling advocates also warned if that would happen, civil charges for child neglect and others also could be added to the mix, creating the potential for fines, court-ordered parenting classes or even the loss of custody under extreme circumstances.
The original opinion, written by Appeals Court Judge H. Walt Croskey, 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.'”
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.”
Also involved in the case on behalf of the parents is the Home School Legal Defense Association, which said it would seek permission to file amicus briefs on the issues.
A long list of homeschool groups working in the state previously released a statement on the issue that could affect 200,000 students. Joining were the California Homeschool Network, Christian Home Educators Association of California, Private and Home Educators of California and HomeSchool Association of California.
“We are united in the goal of protecting the right of parents to teach their children private at home without additional governmental interference,” the statement said. “We believe that children deserve to learn in the environment that best meets their individual needs. We support the right of parents to direct their children’s education including, if they desire, teaching their children privately at home apart from any public school program and without a teaching credential.”
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president has supported homeschoolers in the past.
“I’m sure it [the ruling] will probably be appealed, and then we’ll see how it goes from there,” she said.
Among the other responses have been:
- Assemblyman Joel Anderson has proposed a resolution in the California Legislature that calls for the 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 Legislature 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.
“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 HSLDA also is suggesting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically recognizing parental rights. That effort already is under way under the banner of Parental Rights.
Pacific Justice also is representing Sunland Christian School in the case.