Court Reverses Home School Ban

Reported by Patric Hedlund

California’s Second District Court of Appeal issued a 44-page ruling on Friday, Aug. 8 that said, “California statutes permit homeschooling as a species of private school education.”

With that, the court reversed its own ban on parents who lack teaching credentials but choose to teach their children at home.

The court added that these statutes may be overridden in the case where a child’s safety is in question.

The rehearing of the issue followed a widespread outcry by homeschool parents that reverberated through Sacramento and into the governor’s office when the earlier ruling was made on February 28, 2008.

Home schooling organizations, religious groups, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and numerous political figures also asked the court to revisit the decision. Within weeks the Court of Appeal agreed to rehear the case.

The original verdict was intended to protect a specific child whose father, court documents allege, had a history of child abuse. The goal of the court in that case was to require the child to attend public school so her well-being could be monitored by out-of-home adults.

Homeschool advocates quickly protested that the ruling was overbroad and could legally outlaw the practices of perhaps 200,000 homeschools in the state.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said in a press release, “As head of California’s public school system, it would be my wish that all children attend public school, but I understand that a traditional public school environment may not be the right setting for each and every child. I would point out that within California’s education system there are many options available, from independent study to charter schools to non-classroom-based programs….”

In 2002 O’Connell’s predecessor, Delaine Eastin, noted that local school districts lose thousands of dollars for each homeschooled child. She is reported to have counseled public school superintendents that homeschooling is not an authorized exemption from mandatory public school attendance.

Concerns over legal issues lead a large proportion of homeschool families not to file any formal notification of their choice. This hinders the ability to estimate the actual number of homeschooled children. Statisticians must extrapolate from indirect data.

A 1999 U.S. Department of Education survey noted a steady growth trend in the numbers of homeschooled children in the nation, with higher numbers in the western states. Patricia Lines of the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum and Assessment wrote that by 1996 there may have been over one million homeschooled children nationwide. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) estimated the number of homeschooled children (grades K-12) for the 2001-2002 school year as between 1.725 million and 2.185 million.

Estimates are that between 166,000 to over 200,000 Calfornia children are homeschooled.

This is part of the August 15, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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