One Thing I Don’t Understand

March 10, 2008 @ 4:21 pm | Filed under:

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?

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9 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. JoVE says:

    I have wondered the same thing. Is there any sense that the court considers the education the parents are providing inadequate? And perhaps that in addition to abuse, they are seeing it as neglect? Doesn’t answer the question about why the children aren’t being removed from the parents altogether, though.

  2. Christine M says:

    I’m with you that something doesn’t completely add up here.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I agree – that’s odd.

  4. Mary G. says:

    Exactly, Lissa — and this would not happen if the kids were in a public school? I still contend that it’s very curious that the court made SUCH a broad statement about all homeschoolers in the State …. rather than limiting to the case at hand…

    Odd — but prayers would probably help this family and this case, so I’m off to try that….


  5. Maria says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I could also be wrong on this but I think there is a secondary court case that is dealing with the abuse issues. I believe that there were two separate cases going on.

    But ya, this is so NOT about homeschooling or even (despite the bru ha ha) homeschooling in California. It’s about abuse and dysfunction.

  6. Shannon @ some fine taters says:

    Maybe I’m cynical, but I think a plausible scenario is that there is, in fact, no “neglect” other than educational.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    That’s where it gets troubling. The unpublished court documents (still a matter of public record) indicate some specific and disturbing offenses. If those allegations are true, the children should not be in the same home as the father. If they are not true, there is no case–unless, as you say, the court is determining some kind of “educational neglect,” which is problematic from every direction. But as described in the court docs, the situation is grave indeed.

  8. J says:

    Hi Lissa,

    There’s got to be more than ONE thing here that troubles you. There seem to be a quite a few logical issues with this case.

    The dependency court seemed to indicate that while the education provided by the family in question was “lousy,” “meager,” and “bad” (you’ve got to love that legal language), this court made no attempt to do so in the context of the education they would have received at a public school in their local district. If you look at Lynwood HS’s 2002-2003 report card (the most recent accessible report card on their site), the school district is about 60% English Learners and 70% Low Income. Only one quarter of HS students met or exceeded standards on the English and Language Arts portion of the HS Exit Exam and less than 14% were able to pass the math portion. SAT-9 and CST scores also show poor performance among 9th-11th graders. About 19% of teachers were not credentialed in 2003 and the school listed one full-time probation officer and one full time LA County Deputy on staff.

    The point is, in context, forcing the parents to enroll their children in a public school in their district probably would not have made a great difference in the quality of education provided to the children. By all reasonable standards, the education they would have received through Lynwood Unified could have also been described as “lousy,” “meager” and “bad.” Shouldn’t the dependency court’s opinion have been ruled as hearsay without proper context AND expert witness?

    And then there’s the question of involving the DOE (education)in something that should be in the sole jurisdiction(child abuse) of the DCFS. It seems like an infringement on natural checks and balances. Shouldn’t a smart lawyer question the constitutionality of infringing on those checks and balances?

    Lastly, there’s a question of definitions. What exactly is the legal line between private school and homeschool? Lack of mention in the California legal code seems to purposely obscure that line rather than make it illegal to homeschool because so many homeschools have written private school charters. Public and private school distance learning programs, certain types of charter schools, home-based educational daycare programs and even highly organized co-ops further blur that line. The only quantifiable difference between the two is that private school teachers are employees rather than parents. (I may be wrong, but I understand that it is not necessary for a private school to have an accrediting agency or to have legal non-profit status, right? I know many do, but I don’t understand it to be a requirement.) The employees vs. parents thing makes me wonder if homeschooling would be perceived as more legitimate to the general public if there was some type of documented economic gain on the part of parents (ie. savings on before and after school care and excess cost of housing in a “good” school district vs. expected economic benefit if the children were in another type of educational setting.) I suppose this last thing is sort of crass and silly, but it’s crossed my mind before. Especially after reading “Two Income Trap” by Elizabeth Warren.

  9. Rachel says:

    As I understand it, one of the conditions for being allowed to retain custody of the children was that the parents send them to school. If you ask me, they shouldn’t be able to keep the kids with or without that condition; in fact, the kids should have been removed from the home years ago.