California Homeschool Court Decision Ignores Research Findings and Constitutions
Posted March 7, 2008
One of the most significant recent court rulings on homeschooling, and parental rights in general, was handed down by a California court in late February. The California Court of Appeals, on February 28, 2008, essentially declared that homeschooling is illegal in California and no constitutional right to its practice exists in either California or the United States at large. The three judges have contradicted and deemed illegal at least 25 years of the modern practice of parent-led home-based education by their ruling in a single family-services-related case (i.e., a juvenile court proceeding; read court opinion online http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=4804). The case is entitled Jonathan L. and Mary Grace L. v. Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles; i.e., the Long family case).
Headlines across the U.S. and internationally have broadcast the recent ruling as follows: “Judge orders homeschoolers into government education; Court: Family’s religious beliefs ‘no evidence’ of 1st Amendment violation” (www.worldnetdaily.com, 2/29/08), “Defending Homeschool Freedom in California” (www.hslda.org, 3/7/08), “Homeschoolers’ setback sends shock waves through state” (www.sfgate.com, 3/7/08), “Home is not where the school is” (www.getreligion.com, 3/6/08), “California court ruling about home schooling worries families” (www. news.xinhuanet.com, 3/7/08), “Court Deems Homeschooling a Criminal Offense” (www.lewrockwell.com, 3/6/08), and “No Right to Home School” (www.poligazette.com, 3/6/08). Many social observers recognize the weight of this court’s opinion.
At least two things are clear in this situation. First, the judges, in their sweeping remarks, ignored significant research evidence that home-educated children and youth typically significantly outperform their peers in public schools in terms of academic achievement. They score, on average, 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. This is the consistent state of affairs while the large majority of their parents, their main academic teachers, have never been certified, licensed, or otherwise approved by the state as teachers. Furthermore, these students, in grades K through 12, also typically fare as well or better than their institutional public and private school peers in terms of social, emotional, and psychological development. And, research shows that adults who were home educated appear to be more civically active and engaged and give more community service than do the general public. The research base is clear on this. In other words, the positive correlates of home-based education for the majority community of homeschool families were apparently irrelevant to the court as it made a decision related to one family (in a juvenile court proceeding) that the court would clearly apply to all families who choose private homeschooling rather than state-approved and state-regulated public and private institutional schooling or state-certified-teacher tutoring.
Second, the judges on the court ignored basic facts about the California Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and the underlying legal and rights theory upon which the U.S. and other free nations are founded. The California Constitution requires the state to provide free common schools (i.e., tax-funded public schools) but it does not grant the state the power or right to control the education of children who are not attending state schools (i.e., public schools). Importantly in this matter, the California Constitution neither recognizes nor grants the state any power over the private education of children. Furthermore, the California constitution neither recognizes nor grants unlimited power to the state over the people in areas not addressed in the constitution. In other words, the people of California, being a free people, are at liberty to live and express themselves as they so choose unless prohibited by the constitution or clearly harming others. The U.S. Constitution neither recognizes nor gives any rights or power over the education of children to the federal government, therefore such rights and powers reside with the several states or the people, and the Constitution recognizes the fundamental rights of the expression of religious beliefs and prohibits the government from interfering with such. Religious beliefs are consciously a part of parent’s rationales for practicing home-based education in the U.S. and other nations.
Finally, as just alluded, individuals and family units in a free nation with constitutions such as the U.S. Constitution and the states’ constitutions are free – that is, unfettered – to practice their religion, philosophical beliefs, child rearing and child education, and more unless the constitutions expressly prohibit such or by their actions they are clearly harming others. If this freedom-unless-otherwise-prohibited theory is not recognized and practiced, then there is no authentic educational and religious liberty in a nation.
Keywords: homeschooling, home schooling, home education, home-based education, private school, private schooling, California, court case, research, academic achievement, policy
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