Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Homeschooling under attack

As some of my readers know, my wife and I decided some time ago to homeschool our kids and are quite happy with the results. Unfortunately, as a homeschooler, depending on where one lives, one is constantly worried about the government taking away your right to teach your kids as you see fit. A recent court case in California, which asserts that children have to be sent to a brick and mortal school or taught by a "credentialled" teacher is particularly worrisome. It seems that the case began with allegations of abuse but when, upon investigation, it was discovered that the family had homeschooled its children, authorities attempted to force the family to send the kids to a regular school. The first court case supported the parent's right to home school, but this latest case overturned the initial decision. Here's an excerpt from the latest decision:
The trial court’s reason for declining to order public or private schooling for the children was its belief that parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home. However, California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children. Thus, while the petition for extraordinary writ asserts that the trial court’s refusal to order attendance in a public or private school was an abuse of discretion, we find the refusal was actually an error of law. It is clear to us that enrollment andattendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that private school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught, or (3) one of the other few statutory exemptions to compulsory public school attendance (Ed. Code, § 48220 et seq.) applies to the child. Because the parents in this case have not demonstrated that any of these exemptions apply to their children, we will grant the petition for extraordinary writ.[emphasis added]
Regardless of the particular ideas and standing of these particular parents, it is important to support the right of all parents to control the education of their children as a basic right. I was under the impression that California by and large supported this right. It seems I might have been mistaken.


Rational Jenn said...

You beat me to posting about this! It's very concerning that any court in this nation would come right out and say that parents to not have a right to educate their children as they see fit. I sure hope this is appealed.

My understanding of CA law (and it admittedly very little) is that homeschooling can happen if the parents register as a private school and then enroll their kids in that private school. But there is no specific mention of "homeschool" in the legal code. Is that right? If so, I wonder why the statute is written that way. Makes me suspect that CA is not as "homeschool"-friendly as I've heard.

Keep posting about this--it's important, because, unfortunately, whither California goest, the nation followeth.

Burgess Laughlin said...

... the right of all parents to control the education of their children as a basic right.

A basic right is one which serves as a foundation (base) for a lot of other, narrower rights. The basic rights are life, liberty, and property. I do not see how the right of parents to select a form of education for their children is a basic right.

Gideon said...

Rational Jenn: What you describe was my understanding as well. However, while California remains less intrusive than other states in many ways, it seems in the end that the freedom available here relies on what amounts to as a legal technicality. This is most worrysome.

Burgess: I was looking for a proper formulation that would capture this. I agree that it isn't really a basic right. It's derivative from life, liberty and property. When I get the chance, I would like to post a clear argument for this derivative right.