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The California Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 28 that almost all forms of home schooling in California are in violation of state law.
BY ROBERT KUMPELREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The recent California court ruling that
home-schooling parents need a teaching credential sent shockwaves throughout
the home-schooling community.
The case involved a home-schooling family of eight children,
one of whom accused the father of being physically abusive. But the decision,
issued Feb. 28 by a California appellate court, applies throughout the state
and has reverberated throughout the nation.
As of 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics
found that 1.1 million children in America were home schooled. That’s about
2.2% of students. Although there has never been any formal survey, the Round
Table of Catholic Home School Leaders estimated in 1994 that approximately 1%
of all home school families in the United States are Catholic.
Catholic home schoolers keep their kids at home for a
variety of reasons, especially concerns about their child’s safety, social
indoctrination in public schools and declining orthodoxy in Catholic schools.
Parents with such concerns are likely upset by the court’s ruling, but home
schooling leaders are facing the decision with surprising calm.
Mary Kay Clark is the director of Seton Home Study School,
the largest Catholic home school service in the United States, based in Front
Royal, Va. She is confident that the court’s decision is temporary.
“It’s misguided, it’s unfortunate and it doesn’t hold any
water. Home schooling is legal in California according to state law,” she said.
“Even the California school system actually has charter schools where home
schoolers come in once a week. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that parents
have the right to teach their own kids. There’s just no way that this ruling is
going to affect home schooling.”
Clark said that public sentiment supports home schooling, as
“There are more than 100,000 people home schooling in
California,” she said.
The Home School Legal Defense Association has asked people
to sign a petition over the Internet to ‘de-publish’ the ruling, which would
mean that it would apply only to the case at hand, and not to everyone else who
is home schooling. And it was a very narrow case. Within a few hours they had
more than 50,000 signatures.
“It’s going to go nowhere because there’s too much going
against it. It would be laughable if it didn’t make people worry,” she
continued. “But anybody with a law degree or a legal background can see right
away that it doesn’t hold water. Even the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
issued a public statement saying that parents had a right to educate their
children and if the courts don’t fix this ruling, the legislators will. In
fact, I suspect that they are going to move on it very quickly because there
has been such an uprising.”
Law or Order
And she was right. On March 11, State Assemblyman Joel
Anderson introduced ACR 115, a resolution denouncing the appeals court
Yet J. Michael Smith, an attorney and president of the Home
School Legal Defense Association, isn’t too excited at the idea of a
“We have got to win this case, get it reversed, do whatever
we can, but stay away from the Legislature,” he said. “I am not confident that
we can get anything good out of them.”
Smith fears that legislative solutions will result in
incremental encroachments on the rights of parents.
“There are a few people out there, usually people with a lot
of education and think they know a lot, that would like to see home schooling
much more regulated,” Smith said. “They recognized that the horse is out of the
barn. All the surveys show that home schooled students are scoring 20 to 30
percentile points above the public school kids and doing well in college. Sixty
percent to 70% of their parents are college educated. It’s gone too far to try
to stop it.
“But what they would like to do is regulate it. And by
regulating it, it’s my concern that they will stop it. The genius of home
education is individualized instruction, being able to fit the academic
schedule and day schedule around one child. That child gets an individualized
program. So when they start telling us how many hours and what courses and,
‘Oh, by the way, we want you to be tested,’ every few months or every school
year — that’s a problem.”
The concern about standardized testing is rooted in the
“social engineering” curriculum that home school parents wish to avoid.
“There was recently a bill introduced in Tennessee that
would require home school students to take the same exit exams that public
school students take,” Smith said. “Those exams are like the ‘No Child Left
Behind’ exams. They are over a specific body of curriculum. They are
criteria-referenced. We are seeing some of that, and some statements that
‘Well, this home schooling may be okay, but we don’t know that all the parents
are doing a good job.’ We also hear, ‘They may be doing well academically, but
there’s more to school than academics, and they need to be exposed to things
other than what their parents are teaching.’ That’s all out there.”
Loyalty to the State
Christopher Ferrara is the president of the American
Catholic Lawyer’s Association. His view of the decision is considerably grimmer
than Clark’s or Smith’s.
“The court’s stated rationale is chilling in its
implications,” Ferrara said. “As the decision states: ‘California courts have
held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their
children. ... 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.’
“Here the Court confirms that the public educational system
is designed to indoctrinate children in ‘loyalty to the state’ — which, in
California, means loyalty to its far-left, gender-bending campaign to destroy
all semblance of adherence to Christian morality.”
Ferrara believes the worst may yet be in store for Catholic
“This is a battle of religions: the religion of believing
Christians vs. the religion of the modern state, whose super-dogma is
toleration,” he said. “Catholic families are facing a threat to their very
existence as islands of isolation from the civic religion of liberalism, of
which the public schools are temples.”
Mother of Divine Grace Home School operates from Ojai,
Calif. Its founder and director, Laura Berquist, is not worried. But she isn’t
very happy about the ruling, either.
“It’s a very bad decision, and I pray that it’s not going to
have much of an effect,” she said. “If Home School Legal Defense is right, the
best way to go is to de-publish the ruling.”
Berquist fears that there is a trend afoot to stop home
“The Nebraska Legislature tried to pass a bill requiring
that state standardized tests be given to all homeschoolers,” she said. “There
were also suggestions that they should have teacher credentialing.”
Berquist was referring to L.B. 1141, a bill that would have
brought home schoolers under the discretionary authority of the state’s
Commissioner of Education. The bill never made it out of committee.
While Berquist is aware of parental fears, she thinks most
of them have been allayed by the vigilance of organizations like Home School
“They have told us that the judge can’t make law, or change
law,” she said. “All he can do is interpret law, and this interpretation seems
overly broad. We’re really in no different situation legally than we were prior
Robert Kumpel writes from