Saturday, March 1, 2008

CA Judges: "Parents Have No Constitutional Right to Homeschool"

I'd always heard that California was one of the easier states in which to homeschool. So I was shocked to read an article on WorldNetDaily entitled "Judge Orders Homeschoolers Into Government Education." It was a bit unclear from the WND article what exactly was going on in the case of Philip and Mary Long [UPDATE: from the 2/28/08 court ruling, it appeared that the parents' names were Jonathan & Mary Grace. I have since learned that those are the names of the 2 Long children the court has ordered to attend school]. So I dug a bit deeper, and found the full ruling here.

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!


Alasandra, The Cats and Dogs said...

This is outrageous.

All parents should be concerned about this. It's a parental rights issues as well as a homeschooling issue.

What is particularly appalling is the family was in COMPLIANCE with CA homeschooling laws.

Can they appeal?

Anonymous said...

However, California courts have held that under provisions in the
Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their
children. Thus, while the petition for extraordinary writ asserts that the trial court’s
refusal to order attendance in a public or private school was an abuse of discretion, we
find the refusal was actually an error of law.

And again we have judges interpreting the Constitution as an enumeration of the rights of citizens instead of its purpose- to restrain the gov't from intruding into the private lives of the people.

This quote just slays me-
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.

Tammy said...

There are 3 state-wide homeschool groups in California, and as far as I know, none of these groups knew about this case until today.

The judge was ruling totally against the precedents. The family was in compliance. They weren't even filing as a "home-based private school". They were using an ISP. And ACCREDITED ISP, even.

This is bad for us here, and we're working on how to handle this. We're not sure what the aftermath is going to be about this. I believe that they can appeal, since there are higher courts available.

Thanks for posting about this. This is the first time we've have trouble in California in many years. Hopefully, it won't amount to much. But we have to be prepared for if it does become a serious challenge.

Rita Loca said...

As a home schooling Mom, having recently left Venezuela in part because of this kind of government interference, this angers me DEEPLY!!!

Renae said...

Thank you for doing more digging about this case.

Yes, we are praying. May the Lord give this family strength, wisdom, and provision to fight for liberty's future.

Peace to you,
Life Nurturing Education

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I saw this on other sites and couldn't really believe it. This is so frightening.

Cruella DeVille said...

HSLDA just issued an elert about this item today. Yes, we all need to be praying - but this issue is bigger than the homeschool community. This issue drives to the very core of Christian parenting - who gets to decide what the child is taught...this case shows that the state of California thinks that the child is the property of the state.
Alert prayer chains - let other (homeschooling or not) parents know- and pray, pray, pray.

Unknown said...

What a pitiful situation that family is in. If I could encourage them to do one thing it would be leave California. That state does so many offensive things in the name of "progress" - like forcing students to take sexual orientation education under the guise of diversity training. So many minorities in California get special accommodations and special treatment. Too bad Christians are not a favored minority in CA.

Christina said...

Since the family is using a private school's (Sunland's) independent study program, the kids are NOT being educated "at" the school (as defined in the ruling, on-site), but rather at home via independent study. They'd need to have filed the private school affidavit to create a private school under their roof.

I've been researching the CA Ed. Code and I haven't come across law that expressly allows or forbids private schools' independent study; there is law providing for public school independent study via either a district or a county dept. of education (51475).

This ruling interprets the compulsory attendance exemption statute (48222), ruling that if the private school exemption is used, the student must be "at" the private school (on-site). It doesn't refer at all to 33190, the private school affidavit code which governs the establishment and compliance of a CA private school. It offers no opinion about whether a private school can be established and run out of a residence.

Since it is only concerned with the 48222 exemptions, the ruling also doesn't affect homeschoolers using traditional public and public charter homeschooling programs. Those students are not exempted from compulsory attendance, but are in attendance at a public school.

I am in the minority with my opinion on this ruling, and it is true that there could be cascading consequences stemming from it, but I do not see it overturning laws that it does not even refer to.

Cavalor Epthith said...


You are just wasting your time and good research trying to show where the Longs were out of compliance with California law to many of those who come here seeking more details on how Christians are being "persecuted" in a land full of Christians.

Mrs C, fromwembley and casa are so blinded by the headline they are not willing to go into depth below the surface and find where the Truth actually lies. The Longs have been accused of being pattern abusers of one of their children and of using their "beliefs" as a shield against the law. This is a separate matter of jurisprudence from their illegal declaration of an ISP linked to a private school which their children did not attend taught by non credentialed tutors.

This case is about one family and their crimes not about the homeschooling movement itself. As the proud father of twins that I plan to homeschool with my wife in three years one thing I will give them both is a large dose of exposure to all things not just fear driven protection from some amorphous realm known as "the world."

qu'ul cuda praedex nihil!

Christina said...

Cavalor, I've been a reader of this blog for quite some time, and although I am an atheist I do not dismiss the concerns of religious families automatically as paranoia. (Especially moderate ones!) In fact, I am in agreement with them that the extreme religious beliefs of the Long family almost certainly made them susceptible to this type of ruling.

Where I perhaps disagree is that I believe the Long children (and all children) have as much right to religious and intellectual freedom as their parents. If this situation was so extreme as to cause some of the children to seek legal relief, those children should be permitted to redress under the law.

I don't belief my time is wasted in research on this case. With this appellate ruling, the situation has gone beyond the actions of the individual family and reached a level where fundamental educational rights are potentially affected across the entire state. I see very little probability that a challenge won't come before the state supreme court (the next level), and I want to be prepared to participate in an appropriate manner. If you plan to homeschool your twins in CA, the fact that you plan to be a mainstream hs'er won't necessarily guarantee your right to do so freely if the educational aspects of this ruling are left to stand.

Thankful said...

Thank you for writing on this. I am most distressed and praying. The legal right to homeschool is something I love about California, and after reading the court document prepared by lawyers, I see they are claiming there is no such right in California. That would move us from one of the easiest states in which to homeschool to the only state that does not allow any form of homeschooling. Even regimented New York and Pennsylvania allow it with very strict guidelines. I live here because of this right, and would be forced to move to Texas or New Jersey or some such more free state, and what a disruption to my husband's job and our family life! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help the effort for freedom to homeschool in California. I am praying! -MR