Just a few days ago, on February 28th, a momentous Appellate Court decision was handed down in California. Some of you may have heard about it elsewhere; let’s call it an “opportunity” for homeschool law improvement in California! HSLDA has stated that, if followed, this decision will cause California to have the most regressive law in the nation and homeschooling will be effectively banned. HSLDA was not a party to the case, and found out about it when the decision was made public.
In California the most common way to homeschool is to enroll your child in a private school. Below is a quote from “Private and Home Educators of California, Legal-Legislative Update” for August/September 2007, by Roy M. Hanson, Jr.. (Family Protection Ministries, PO Box 730, Lincoln, Calif 95648-0730):
“Enrolling your compulsory-age child in a private school (whether home-based or campus-based), which has filed a current private school affidavit, exempts your child from compulsory attendance at a public
school, according to California Education Code Sections 48222 and 33190. In California, there is no legally-defined entity known as a ‘homeschool.’ In order to be consistent with the law of our state, we do not use the term ‘homeschool’ with public school officials.”
The unanimous decision, by Justices Walter Croskey, Joan D. Klein, and Patti S. Kitching, said that enrolling the children in the private school (Sunland Christian School) was depriving them of an education in a public or private full-time day school setting. It was a “ruse of enrolling them in a private school and then letting them stay home and be taught by a non-credentialed parent.” The court also threw out the parental claim they were homeschooling their children because of religious beliefs. Citing the Supreme Court Amish case (Wisconsin v. Yoder), this family wasn’t religious enough, causing some commentators to wonder if it is necessary to be super-religious to gain special favors from the government.
All of this is on the heels of California passing into law the very controversial SB777, which prohibits public schools and teachers from “reflecting adversely” on gays and lesbians, which many say will prevent schools from using the terms “mommy” or “daddy”. Many groups have recently come together under “California Exodus”, calling for people to get their children out of public schools.
The court decision strikes me as very similar to the Nevada case in Humboldt County (the Wallace case) in 1982. In that case an application to homeschool was denied by the local school district because the parents weren’t credentialed, the parents had no Constitutional right to educate their own children, and the parents weren’t religious enough (according to the secular court).
Nevada now has a very different type of law protecting our legal right to homeschool. We are not considered “private” schools, and homeschooling is defined in law. Parents are directly responsible for the education of their children. Provision is made for the courts to verify homeschooling is occurring, if a court requests it, to help prevent abuse of the law from occurring. A religious clause similar to the Federal RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) helps prevent a secular court from deciding whether you’re “religious” or not. Many provisions have been included by our legislators to allow us to participate in public school special education, in public school classes, and in sports and other extracurricular activities, as well as full access to the state’s Millennium Scholarship program for our graduates. We have so much to be thankful for! Be sure to tell your Assemblyman or Senator thank you!
Frank Schnorbus, Elissa Wahl, Kelley Radow, Barb Dragon, Laura Siegel, Carl Lucas
To learn more about the California situation, here are some helpful links: