According to the court document, one of the Longs' minor children reported some sort of unspecified physical and emotional mistreatment by Mr. Long [UPDATE: out of concern for the privacy of the Long children, I've decided to take down the link to a different court document detailing the alleged abuse. It is a matter of public record though so here's the gist of it. There was conflict between Mr. Long and an adolescent daughter over her disobedience of his strict rules. The daughter ran away from the family home & claimed that her father's corporal punishment was abusive and that he did not protect her from a family friend whom she alleges was sexually abusing her and her sisters. An older daughter not living with the family made similar allegations. The parents and the other children deny these allegations and basically characterize the two girls as disgruntled with their strict upbringing. The child welfare authorities sent the teen to live with her sister, where she is enrolled in a traditional government-run school. They found no evidence that the youngest two children were subject to abuse so they left them in the home. A follow-up visit 6 months later confirmed they were doing okay.]
The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services investigated and discovered that all 8 children in the family are or had been homeschooled. The children in question are currently enrolled in the accredited independent study program of the Sunland Christian School. The Longs have stated that they homeschool because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs...based on Biblical teachings and principles” and that they do not believe in the policies of the public school system.
A court attorney was appointed to "represent the interests" of the youngest 2 Long children [whom even the teen making the allegations of her own mistreatment has said were not abused and whom the social workers at the follow-up visit agreed were okay]. This attorney asked the juvenile court to order that the children be enrolled in a traditional public or private school. The reasons given were:
(1) [The children] could interact with people outside the family.
(2) There are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives.
(3) [The children] could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ “cloistered” setting.
[UPDATE: The child welfare authorities were *ALREADY* keeping tabs on the Long family. If, at any point, they become concerned about the safety of these children, they can choose to remove them from the home the way they did the teen. Additionally, enrolling the children in a traditional school is no guarantee of protection from a legitimately abusive situation, should that turn out to be the case.] The juvenile court declined to issue the order because the Longs have a constitutional right to homeschool. The court-appointed attorney for the children then appealed to the Second Appellate District of California.
Judges H. Walter Croskey, Joan Klein, and Patti Kitching of the Second Appellate Court then made an extraordinary ruling. They held that the California Educational Code Section 48222 that exempts private school students from compulsory attendance at government-run schools only applies to those enrolled in traditional private schools. This goes against two previous home school cases handled by HSLDA, that upheld the right of homeschools to operate as private schools: People v. Darrah, No. 853104 (Santa Maria Mun. Ct. Mar. 10, 1986); People v. Black, No. 853105 (Santa Maria Mun. Ct. Mar. 10, 1986).
Under the requirements of the CA Ed. Code, private school teachers are not required to hold a CA state teaching credential or have any specific qualifications aside from being "capable of teaching". The only time a state teaching credential is required is if the parent chooses to act as a "certified private tutor" under Section 48224. Yet the Second Appellate Court judges held Mrs. Long unfit to teach her children at home because she lacks a state credential:
"the fact remains that the children are taught at home by a non-credentialed person. Moreover, the very language of section 48222 is an implicit rejection of the parents’ position that having someone from Sunland Christian School monitor mother’s instruction of the children is sufficient. Section 48222 provides an exemption from compulsory public school education for '[c]hildren who are being instructed in a private full-time day school.' (emphasis added)."
The Long children ARE being educated IN a "private full-time day school". That school just happens to be located at the Long home!
What is the truly scary part of the Second Appellate Court ruling for religious homeschoolers is the rejection of the Longs' right to homeschool based on their religious beliefs. The judges rejected the Longs' claim that that requiring their children to attend government-run schools violates their First Amendment right to freedom of worship. The reason given was that those religious beliefs are "philosophical and personal" rather than specifically mandated by an organized church community based on traditions that are centuries old (such as the Old Order Amish). The judges wrote that:
"[The Longs'] statements are conclusional, not factually specific. Moreover, such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child."
So the State gets to decide whether a family is homeschooling for religious reasons NOT the family itself. If the State decides the reasons are actually "philosophical" rather than "religious" (talk about vague!) then the parents have no right to educate their own children.
Please join me in praying that the State Supreme Court will overturn this horrendous ruling!