Word has it that a juvenile court judge has terminated the court’s jurisdiction over the two children involved in the In re Rachel L case that made the news last spring. As you’ll recall, the children’s court-appointed attorneys had petitioned the court to require the homeschooled children to be enrolled in public school. A lower court denied the request, but the appellate court overturned the decision with a sweeping statement about the legality of homeschooling in CA without a teacher’s credential. The court later vacated that ruling and re-heard arguments for the case last month. We’ve all been waiting with bated breath for the new ruling to come down.
But this new development, the result of a July 10 hearing, may render that ruling unnecessary. An HSLDA alert indicates that Mr. L’s attorneys
“will move to dismiss the petition pending in the court of appeal on the ground that the petition is now moot. In other words, the children are no longer under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Therefore, any decision by the appellate court based on the two-year-old petition could not be enforced against the L children.”
Should be interesting to see what happens next!
(Please note that my quoting HSLDA does not indicate an endorsement of that organization. The alert popped up in my news reader. I am not a supporter of HSLDA.)
In March I reported the distressing news that the NY State Board of Regents had announced public special-education services such as speech therapy and occupational therapy would no longer be available to homeschooled students. Private school students, they ruled, would continue to qualify, but not homeschoolers.
Well, it looks like common sense has prevailed. Today the New York State Senate passed a bill reinstating these services to homeschooled children. The Assembly passed the companion bill on Monday. Now all that remains is the governor’s signature.
This is great news. These are public services available through the public schools which ought to be available to all children, not just those enrolled in the schools. Working with the school district to receive these services is not always an easy task, but for some families, for some children, it’s a vitally important option.
I wrote a fair amount at The Lilting House about my family’s (sometimes rocky) experiences with receiving speech therapy and audiology services from our school district for our hard-of-hearing son. I had to learn a lot about navigating the IEP process, and some of the lessons came at a price. (You may recall the one IEP meeting where I was sandbagged by “the team” and had to fight hard to persuade them to agree to what I knew to be the best course of action for my son.) This past year we’ve been very pleased with the way things have worked, and I couldn’t be happier with our current speech therapist and the district’s awesome audiologist.
And not having to drive up to the children’s hospital for these services (where Wonderboy already sees eleven different specialists on a regular basis, and NEVER on the same day) has made a huge practical difference in my family’s quality of life. I run him over to a local elementary school for speech therapy, hearing tests, new ear molds, and such. All these services and supplies (including hearing aid batteries, which aren’t cheap) are provided free of charge by the school district—just as they are, here in California, for every child in the district, whether public-schooled, private-schooled, or homeschooled. Our tax dollars are helping fund these programs.
One of the potential pitfalls we’ve skirted is that once your kid is in, it can be hard to get him out if you decide the services in question are not a good fit, after all. Here in CA, Wonderboy is stuck in the system until he reaches legal kindergarten age. He misses the cutoff for next fall by one week, and ordinarily I’d have been delighted about that: no need to fool with paperwork for him for an extra year. (Not that there’s much paperwork to fool with, here in sunny Cal.) But if I wanted to back out of district-provided services and seek them through the medical venue instead, I’d have a devilish time doing so until he reaches kindy age. At that point, I can simply “enroll” him in our family’s private school (since that’s the option I homeschool under, the private-school provision) and decline any or all district services I might wish to disengage from.
We’re quite satisfied with our current level and quality of service, and I’m content to maintain the status quo next year. But the libertarian in me (Scott says he notices an increasingly large streak, year after year) bristles at being bound to any status quo where my own child is concerned.
But I bristle even more at the notion of services being denied to some children for arbitary or prejudiced reasons, which seemed for a while to be the direction NY was headed. Bravo to the legislature for letting justice prevail. Now sign that baby, Governor.
This just in:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SACRAMENTO – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced today that the California Department of Education has completed a legal review of the February 28 California Court of Appeal ruling regarding home schooling. O’Connell issued the following statement:
“I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents that chose to home school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home school in our state.
“Every child in our state has a legal right to get an education, and I want every child to get an education that will prepare them for success in college and the world of work in the challenging global economy.
“As the head of California’s public school system, I hope that every parent would want to send their children to public school. However, traditional public schools may not be the best fit for every student. Within the public school system there are a range of options available. Students can take independent study classes, attend a charter school, or participate in non-classroom-based programs. But some parents choose to send their children to private schools or to home school, and I respect that right.
“I admire the dedication of parents who commit to oversee their children’s education through home schooling. But, no matter what educational program a student participates in, it is critical that the program prepares them for future success in the global economy. I urge any parent who is considering or involved in home schooling their
children to take advantage of resources and support available through their county or district offices of education.”
There’s a question nagging at me regarding this court case. All the accounts I’ve read suggest that the family in question is indeed a troubled family, and that the children may be victims of abuse. The children’s representatives have sought, first in the lower court and then in the appellate court, to have the children enrolled in a public school so that (to quote the appellate court’s ruling), “(1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ ‘cloistered’ setting.”
Is it the court’s opinion, then, that the watchful eye of the public school system is enough to protect these children from abuses they may be suffering at home? (Are no public school students ever the victims of child abuse?) My question is: if the children are indeed at risk, why have they not been removed from the home?
It seems to me this case has nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with child welfare (as many other bloggers have mentioned). The court ruling has made it into a broad homeschooling issue, and I just don’t get that. Because the published ruling makes broad statements about the legality (or illegality) of homeschooling under the private school or ISP options as commonly practiced by California homeschoolers, the homeschooling community has had to rally in defense of our rights as parents. But none of us are arguing in defense of the parents in this case, if they have indeed endangered their children’s welfare.
Are these children really safe? If the court doesn’t think so, why stop at removing them from the home during school hours?
UPDATE from the CA Homeschooling Network:
California Assemblyman Joel Anderson is introducing a concurrent resolution in the Assembly. He is calling on the California Supreme Court to reverse the recent court decision that could make homeschooling illegal.
This will happen fast, since it’s a resolution and not a bill. All California homeschoolers are encouraged to contact their legislators and ask them to support homeschoolers by voting yes on Joel Anderson’s ACR supporting homeschooling. We expect there will be a powerful response as California homeschoolers respond.
As information develops, it will be placed on CHN’s legal updates page.
I am very curious about this: “reversal of ruling” sounds like a different outcome than “depublishing the ruling.” Is this definitely what we want? I’ll post more info as I find it.
UPDATE: HomeSchool Association of California encourages people to support this resolution. (But I am still not sure why the assemblyman is calling for a reversal rather than depublishing. I’d like some more answers on this.) HSC Legislative Chair Debbie Schwartzer writes:
This is one case where I do encourage members of HSC and all other homeschoolers in the state to contact their representatives (currently, just the Assemblymembers, as it is not pending before the Senate and will just confuse your Senator’s office if you call now) and encourage them to vote in favor of ACR 115. You can find your Assemblymember and his or her contact information by going to www.leginfo.ca.gov, clicking on the blue box entitled “Your Legislature”, and entering your zip code.
Calls are fine, but letters faxed to the office are even better, as they then retain tangible evidence of their constituents’ positions.
The resolution reads as follows: (more…)
I kept wanting to write a real post about this topic, but I got busy. I’ve been fielding a lot of questions offline, though, from concerned friends.By now I think most people have heard the background of the appellate court ruling that addresses the legality of homeschooling in California, but there is a lot of hyperbole and misinformation swirling around out there. There is cause for concern, but not panic. No laws have been changed. This court’s interpretation of state education statutes is dramatically different from the interpretation applied by thousands of homeschooling families for many years, in cooperation with the state Department of Education.
The case involves a family in which the father is accused of abusing the children. In the lower court, the children’s representatives sought a ruling that would require the family to put the children in school. The lower court ruled against this because of, according to the appellate court’s published ruling (link opens a PDF), “its belief that parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home.”
The children’s representatives appealed the case. The appellate court disagreed with the trial court’s interpretation of the law.
California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children….It is clear to us that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught, or (3) one of the other few statutory exemptions to compulsory public school attendance (Ed. Code 48220 et seq) applies to the child.
Let’s come back in a minute and look in more depth at those “other few statutory exemptions” and the private-school option. But first some general words about the issue. It is the opinion of the appeals court that this family did not meet any of the conditions quoted above. As this court interprets the law (and it is important to note that the court based much of its opinion upon a 1953 court case, which is to say a case that predated the movement for freedom to homeschool by decades), no parents currently homeschooling under the “register as a private school” option are in compliance with state law unless the parent holds a “valid teaching credential for the grade being taught.”
The court’s interpretation of how families can work with Independent Study Programs (ISPs) also differs dramatically from the common understanding held and applied by hundreds (thousands? I don’t know the stats) of families across the state.
That’s why this case has caused such a furor. The appellate court’s ruling speaks not just to the situation of this particular family (and by all accounts it is a bad situation), but it makes a broad statement which would seem to apply to a huge number of families across the state who have been happily homeschooling with a good-faith understanding that we are in compliance with state law.
But there is no need to panic. The HomeSchool Association of California and the other state homeschooling associations (I’ll add links later) are working together with excellent legal representation to make sure the rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit are protected.
The best option appears to be petitioning the court to have the ruling “depublished” so that it is binding only for the family in the specific case but would be removed from public record.
The California Homeschool Network blog reports:
CHN and HSC are in contact with law firms who are interested in helping defend our freedoms in California. Because HSLDA has members in CA, they are also doing the same. Individual briefs will likely be written, and requests to “depublish” the report will be submitted. If the depublish requests are successful, it would be removed from public record, and would not be cited against homeschoolers. We think there’s an excellent chance that it will be successful, but if not, we’ll continue to defend homeschooling in other ways. All groups are opposed to legislation, unless there is no other option.
You may have heard that HSLDA is circulating a petition for people to sign in support of depublishing the ruling. While I hope the depublish request is successful, I do not encourage the signing of this petition, for reasons well articulated by homeschooling advocate and watchdog Larry Kaseman in his letter to Wisconsin parents:
HSLDA has gotten involved and is circulating and strongly urging people to sign a petition addressed to the California Supreme Court. WPA suggests that homeschoolers NOT sign the petition for several reasons, including the following:
– The major California homeschooling organizations, including those that are religiously based, have not called for signing the petition. In fact, there is concern about possible backlash if lots of people contact the court. WPA has consistently argued that homeschooling issues in a given state should be addressed by homeschoolers in that state and has opposed intervention by “outside experts.”
– Because HSLDA is not a party to the case, it does not have the authority to submit the petition and signatures to the California Supreme Court.
– HSLDA has a history of inserting itself into highly visible court cases. When the cases have been decided in favor of homeschoolers, HSLDA has tended to take undue credit. Many more of the cases have led either to a decision that limits or undermines homeschooling freedoms or one that leads to legislation that regulates homeschooling strongly and unnecessarily.
I heartily second the concerns about HSLDA’s involvement. As I said on Maureen Wittman’s blog, I would advise anyone to do a great deal of digging and research about the things HSLDA lobbies for before making a decision whether to give them money and support. This organization’s push for writing homeschooling into federal legislation could, many people believe, wind up having negative ramifications for all homeschoolers down the road.
As for all of us California homeschoolers, life is going on as usual for now. There was a flurry of panic last week, much of it fueled by the alarmist rhetoric of a WorldNetDaily article.
There is no reason to panic, but it is important to stay informed. Read the court documents and follow the updates at CHN.
One thing this case ought to do for all of us in this country, homeschooling parents or not, is provoke serious thought about exactly what compulsory education is and why we, as a nation, have written it into our laws. Do you know the history behind compulsory education? Do you know what your state laws are, and how they are enforced?
I’m glad to be a California homeschooler right now. I don’t think there’s going to be a fight, but if there is—if citizens are faced with defending their rights to make decisions about their children’s education—I want to do my part. For nearly a decade now I have been enjoying the freedom secured by parents who came before me, parents who fought hard to protect their right to educate their children at home.
I have lots more to add here, including links to other coverage and a look at the California Education Code, but my time is up for now. More later.
Good info at HSC.org.