Friday, March 7, 2008

Some disturbing news for homeschoolers...


From the LA Times yesterday... (please keep reading below, action is needed)
Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families
State appellate court says those who teach children in private must have a credential.

By Seema Mehta and Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families.

Advocates for the families vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Enforcement until then appears unlikely, but if the ruling stands, home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation.

"This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the Sunland Christian School, which specializes in religious home schooling. "If the state Supreme Court does not reverse this . . . there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state of California."

The institute estimates there are as many as 166,000 California students who are home schooled. State Department of Education officials say there is no way to know the true number.

Unlike at least 30 other states, home schooling is not specifically addressed in California law. Under the state education code, students must be enrolled in a public or private school, or can be taught at home by a credentialed tutor.

The California Department of Education currently allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.

California does little to enforce those provisions and insists it is the local school districts' responsibility. In addition, state education officials say some parents home school their children without the knowledge of any entity.

Home schoolers and government officials have largely accepted this murky arrangement.

"This works so well, I don't see any reason to change it," said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Assn.

The appellate court ruling stems from a case involving Lynwood parents Phillip and Mary Long, who were repeatedly referred to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services over various allegations, including claims of physical abuse, involving some of their eight children.

All of the children are currently or had been enrolled in Sunland Christian School, where they would occasionally take tests, but were educated in their home by their mother, Phillip Long said.

A lawyer appointed to represent two of the Long's young children requested that the court require them to physically attend a public or private school where adults could monitor their well-being. A trial court disagreed, but the children's lawyer appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has jurisdiction over Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The appellate panel ruled that Sunland officials' occasional monitoring of the Longs' home schooling -- with the children taking some tests at the school -- is insufficient to qualify as being enrolled in a private school. Since Mary Long does not have a teaching credential, the family is violating state laws, the ruling said.

"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. "Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program."

Phillip Long said he believes the ruling stems from hostility against Christians and vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"I have sincerely held religious beliefs," he said. "Public schools conflict with that. I have to go with what my conscience requires me."

Public schools teach such topics as evolution, which Long said he doesn't believe in. He said his wife spends six hours each day teaching their children reading, writing, math, science, health, physical education, Bible and social studies. Court papers say Mary Long's education ended at 11th grade.

It's unclear if the ruling will be enforced, given the likely appeals. Typically, these rulings take effect 30 days after they are issued.

Other organizations that plan to get involved include the Pacific Justice Institute, Home School Legal Defense Assn. and the Home School Assn. of California.

Meanwhile, state Department of Education's attorneys are reviewing the ruling.

Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.

"What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he said.

While many educators and officials remained unfamiliar with the ruling Tuesday, news about it has been sweeping websites and blogs devoted to home schooling. Organizations have been getting tense phone calls from parents worried that they will be targeted.

Families who home school includethose whose religious beliefs conflict with public schools and those whose children are in the entertainment industry or have other time-consuming activities that require them to study at an individualized pace.

Glenn and Kathleen, a Sacramento-area couple who requested that their last name not be used for fear of prosecution, home school their 9-year-old son Hunter because their Christian beliefs would be contradicted in a public school setting, Glenn said. He is troubled by the idea that his son would be exposed to teachings about evolution, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and sex education .

"I want to have control over what goes in my son's head, not what's put in there by people who might be on the far left who have their own ideas about indoctrinating kids," he said.

If the ruling takes effect, Glenn vowed to move his family out of state. "If I can't home school my son in California, we're going to have to end up leaving California. That's how important it is to me."
Here's the original article link.

The consequences of this decision being upheld at the CA Supreme Court level would indeed be dire, not only for CA homeschoolers but for homeschoolers across the country whose states and judicial systems may be influenced to follow CA. I agree wholeheartedly with the father in the article quoted at the end. If I lived in CA and this decision were upheld and enforced I would leave the state. It matters that much.

Of course, readers of this blog will be no stranger to the ridiculous statement of the Teacher's Union representative that "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher." This is simply false, and an attempt by a Teacher's Union rep to try to leverage this decision to grab political points in the face of mountains data that disprove his point. For background information on the longstanding NEA bias against homeschooling and their denial of homeschooling achievement, see my previous post on the topic.

And lest we forget what the Church has said about the rights of parents to educate their children: "Parents have the most serious duty and the primary right to do all in their power to see to the physical, social, cultural, moral and religious upbringing of the children." - Canon 1136, Code of Canon Law. Pope Benedict himself has regularly commented on this right.

This is a situation that definitely requires prayers on the behalf of all homeschooling families in California, and homeschoolers everywhere. Please pray for wisdom for the CA Supreme Court, and pray for all of the legal organizations who are fighting this in the CA court system, especially the Home School Legal Defense Association (there's nobody better). In fact, take a listen to this Focus on the Family broadcast where James Dobson interviews legal experts including the HSLDA about this decision. And sign the petition over at the HSLDA website to depublish the appellate court decision.

Lest we forget the lessons of what can happen when Government decides that it must take control of children's education from their parents, one need only look to recent events in Germany (see link here) and much of the rest of Europe. "Persecution" isn't too strong of a word when it comes to how the German goverment has treated homeschooling families there.

I am encouraged that since we are dealing with homeschoolers regarding this issue in CA, the outpouring and response will certainly be overwhelming given the level activism that exists within the homeschool community. One can only pray that the California Supreme Court will listen.

UPDATE: Here's another link to an article in Time Magazine on this. I've been surprised at how supportive of homeschoolers the mainstream media seem to be.


Evan Koop said...

Easily the most disturbing quote of the whole article is the one from the judge who says, "Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children." Really? The only possible way he could come to such a conclusion is by reasoning that anything that is not specifically enumerated as a right in the Constitution is ipso facto not a right at all. This is legal positivism at its worst--the idea that the Constitution doesn't just recognize your (God-given) rights, it, and it alone, grants them to you. Any eighth-grader should know that this philosophy is inimical to the Framers' stated intentions, but it seems this scourge is now taking hold of the highest levels of our judiciary.

Brendan Koop said...

I totally agree. I think we have to keep in mind that this is a California state constitution issue, but the same argument applies. Since the CA constitution undoubtedly does not comment directly on homeschooling (whether you can or cannot) doesn't mean a judge gets to decide for himself that this omission implicitly means that state must educate all children.

Leeta said...

Professors do not have to have ANY teacher training certificate whatsoever and they teach advanced material to university students.
For the obviously more elementary material to be learned in school, there is no necessity for a teaching certificate.

Brendan Koop said...

And actually, even in California, teachers at private schools do not need a teaching credential. So apparently the only person not qualified to teach their kids is the parents themselves.

Jenny C. said...

On a school billboard near our house we saw the following quote:

"The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open mind."

Oh, so glad to be a home-schooling family!