Saturday, August 09, 2008

Good news for California Homeschoolers

On Friday, August 8, the California courts affirmed the right of parents to homeschool their children.

Jack Connell, State Superintendant of Public Educuation, released this statement.

The ruling itself is here. It's actually more interesting to read than you might expect, especially the part that relates the history of the particular case that started all this uproar.

As usual, Debbie Schwarzer has valuable commentary:

The attorneys working on this and the leaders of all the state groups were so pessimistic after the June hearing. It seemed clear that the judges just really didn't like homeschooling, and that they might ignore all the compelling arguments we had in our briefs and stretch somehow to knock us down.

But they did the right thing. They did their job. They carefully read everything (they don't cite the HSC/CHN/CHEA brief, but believe me, much of what they write is based on our arguments), and reached the legally correct conclusions.

In addition to putting to rest the question of whether private home-based schools are legal, the court also made clear what the boundaries of state authority over homeschools are (i.e., the state can do very little). They don't hide the fact that they think that, if the state thinks that education of children is such a compelling interest, they do a bad job of making sure it happens in the case of homeschooled kids. But they didn't try to create powers that don't exist. They didn't try to interpret "capable of teaching". They didn't try to make some argument that the state could pull a family into juvenile court because the quality of the homeschooling isn't good -- to the contrary, they made it clear that only those families that are already in the juvenile court system on other factors could have the adequacy of their homeschooling put on trial.

I was asked by a reporter this afternoon whether I thought the court had bowed to pressure, and I replied, "Absolutely not. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, which is analyze the arguments and try to reach the legally correct decision."

The various group leaders and attorneys today had a conference call, and we all wondered whether the children's attorneys would appeal the ruling. I have since seen a quote from someone in LA County saying they welcomed the ruling. Of course the family won't like the conclusion that the trial court could still determine whether these kids needed to be sent to school for their safety, but we don't think the parents will appeal the part of the ruling relating to homeschooling (and I don't know where they'd find a lawyer to support them if they did).

This decision will be binding on all courts in the state. I assume the Student Attendance Review Board will also be reading it and counseling attendance officers accordingly (the decision makes it really, really clear that no one has the power to go beyond confirming whether the affidavit has been filed), and that we shouldn't see too many instances of local people demanding to see anything other than affidavits.

But this underlines something. DO NOT try to homeschool without either being in a public school program or a legal private school, whether your own or by enrolling in one. If you use curriculum from a private school but they don't file an affidavit, you must do so. DO NOT go "naked". This opinion makes it clearer than ever that it would be very, very difficult to make a winning constitutional argument that you can avoid compulsory education requirements entirely (and I don't think any of the lawyers who worked on this case would support you on that claim).

This really is good news for California homeschoolers.



Blogger Lesley said...

Yeah! Go Homeschoolers!

8:10 PM  

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