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California Homeschooling Panic

Lisa Snell
March 6, 2008, 12:02pm

A California court has a ruling that implies that California's more than 166,000 homeschoolers are simply truant and their parents are criminals. Today's San Francisco Chronicle covers the panic. The ruling arose from a child welfare dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood, who have been homeschooling their eight children. Mary Long is their teacher, but holds no teaching credential. The parents said they also enrolled their children in Sunland Christian School, a private religious academy in Sylmar (Los Angeles County), which considers the Long children part of its independent study program and visits the home about four times a year. The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home. . . . Yet the appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California's compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child's grade level. "California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. "Parents have a legal duty to see to their children's schooling under the provisions of these laws." Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said. "A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare," the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue. Katherine Mangu-Ward covers the ruling yesterday at Reason's Hita and Run under the great headline: "Hey Teacher! Don't Leave Those kids at Home." Education Week also covers the story this week with nationwide trends on burdensome homeschooling regulation from mandatory state testing to parental credentials. Our Vice President Adrian Moore, writes that "this may turn out to be a big blow against homeschooling, or just a rogue judge case that does not matter. Each year we file a form with the state in which we declare our home to be a private school, and that is all we have to do to comply. This law does not fundamentally change the legality of homeschooling wich is legal through statute 48222." 48222. Children who are being instructed in a private full-time day school by persons capable of teaching shall be exempted. Such school shall, except under the circumstances described in Section 30, be taught in the English language and shall offer instruction in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools of the state. The attendance of the pupils shall be kept by private school authorities in a register, and the record of attendance shall indicate clearly every absence of the pupil from school for a half day or more during each day that school is maintained during the year. Exemptions under this section shall be valid only after verification by the attendance supervisor of the district, or other person designated by the board of education, that the private school has complied with the provisions of Section 33190 requiring the annual filing by the owner or other head of a private school of an affidavit or statement of prescribed information with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The verification required by this section shall not be construed as an evaluation, recognition, approval, or endorsement of any private school or course. In other words, until now most homeschoolers file as private schools and parents fall under "persons capable of teaching." The big question is will this ruling change that standard interpretation?

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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