Interesting Development in the California Homeschooling Case

July 11, 2008 @ 9:24 am | Filed under:

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.)

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8 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Mary Alice says:

    Hi, not to incite controversy, but wondering why you say you are not a supporter of HSLDA?

  2. Melissa Wiley says:

    Mary Alice, if HSLDA limited its work to legal representation for homeschoolers (in specific cases in which a family seeks that representation), I doubt I’d have a problem with them. What troubles me is their activist/lobbyist work. They have put themselves forth as representing the interests of homeschoolers–implying “all” homeschoolers–in such endeavors as pushing for federal regulation of home education. As a home educator, I am not alone in believing that federal regulation of hs’ing would be very much against the best interests of our children. HSLDA disagrees and works very hard and energetically in pursuit of its objectives, giving the impression to lawmakers that their agenda is what all homeschoolers desire.

    HSLDA also has a history of swooping into homeschooling-related hearings and taking the floor as the representative voice, often with the result that the many local homeschooling parents and group officials are denied the opportunity to speak. I object to the way in which this organization strives to set itself up as the representative voice for “all” homeschoolers, and I believe that their efforts have several times resulted in state legislation that is restrictive.

  3. Brendan says:


    I must admit, I don’t think you’re correct regarding the HSLDA. HSLDA would be the first organization to push for DE-regulation of homeschooling, just checking out their website gives evidence of all the efforts they have underway to fight regulation of homeschooling across the country. I have no doubt that they probably steal the floor wherever they go on behalf of homeschooling in legislative testimony, but I can’t say I think this is a bad thing. I thank God that we have the HSLDA in this country, homeschooling wouldn’t be in the state it is today without their coordinated efforts.

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    Brendan, I truly wish I *were* wrong about HSLDA. But if you look at their history, they have not pushed for de-regulation. They have worked *for* regulation. They believe that the best way to protect homeschooling freedom is to have the law spell out clearly exactly what our rights and freedoms are.

    I am particularly swamped this week so I can’t give this subject the full degree of attention I would like to. I can try to come back to it in the future. In the meantime, here are some links:

    Excerpts: “…from its beginning in 1983, HSLDA has had a different perspective. Run by lawyers, HSLDA focuses on statutes, regulations, and court cases. Its initial goal was to get the government to “legalize” homeschooling. Having declared that to be accomplished, HSLDA is now increasing its political activity in other areas.”

    “By contrast, HSLDA, with its focus on laws, seizes (and sometimes even seems to create) opportunities to introduce legislation, especially on the federal level. They tell homeschoolers that as lawyers they will negotiate with the education community and other key power brokers in legislatures. According to “About HSLDA” on the HSLDA web site: HSLDA advocates on Capitol Hill by tracking federal legislation that affects homeschooling and parental rights. HSLDA works to defeat or amend harmful bills, but also works proactively, introducing legislation to protect and preserve family freedoms.”

    (See, it’s right there in their own mission statement. They are not secretive about their agenda by any means.)

    “In sum, for over 20 years, grassroots organizations have done well in maintaining homeschooling freedoms, while many of the actions of HSLDA have reduced or undermined our freedoms. For example, HSLDA was very involved in the passage of homeschooling laws in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, which have some of the most difficult homeschooling laws. On the other hand, states such as Wisconsin and Illinois have worked hard to keep HSLDA out of state politics and have some of the best homeschooling situations in the country.”

    Examples of HSLDA not working with state groups.

    I would also recommending reading up on the role HSLDA played in the matter of military acceptance of homeschool graduates. There’s lots of info out there, including on HSLDA’s site. From a March/April 2000 HEM article:

    “In the past, homeschoolers who wanted to enlist in the military but did not have a “third party diploma” from a correspondence school or other recognized institution were treated the same as dropouts from conventional schools. This misunderstanding could have been resolved in any one of a variety of ways, especially since the military is currently eager to find recruits because enlistments have declined. Unfortunately, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) decided to use federal legislation. As Christopher J. Klicka from HSLDA put it in a letter that was sent with the CNA survey, “This situation changed when the HSLDA persuaded Congress to create a five-year pilot program giving home school graduates the same enlistment status as those with a traditional high school diploma (Conference Report of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999, Section 571).”

    Not surprisingly, the government now claims it needs to define homeschooling and identify “genuine home school graduates.” The CNA survey is designed to involve homeschoolers in the process of increasing government regulation of homeschooling!

    A principal researcher working on the survey also told us in a phone conversation that he had attended an HSLDA leadership conference which included a panel of armed forces representatives discussing recruitment and the homeschooling survey. The researcher answered questions from the floor. The researcher also explained that Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute was a consultant for the survey and that HSLDA provided names and addresses of “home school associations” to whom the survey was mailed. The cover letter from Klicka on HSLDA stationery was included with the survey, the researcher said, to ensure a higher response rate. ”

    (There have been changes since that time–but that event speaks to HSLDA’s willingness to pursue legislation and govt involvement, even at the federal level, to “protect” homeschooling rights and freedoms.)

    HSLDA makes no secret of its efforts regarding state and federal legislation for homeschooling. The organization is proud of its accomplishments in this area. HSLDA genuinely believes that good legislation is the key to protecting homeschoolers’ rights. I am one of the many, many people who disagree with their position.

  5. Brendan says:

    Thanks for your thorough response. I am a homeschooling Dad of 4 (soon to be 5) and we’re members of a home schooling co-op and members of a Catholic parish with almost 100 home schooling families. I can tell you with great certainty that there aren’t many people who agree with you on this one. In fact, you’re the first I’ve ever heard of that holds this view on the HSLDA (which I’m still a little mystified by) and I know generally of wide support of the HSLDA. Government “regulation” of home schooling includes all legislation and laws that would restrict home schooling freedoms. It is definitely NOT “regulation” to pass a law that explicitly protects home school freedoms. To think otherwise would be equivalent to thinking, for example, that the government never should have defined that women have a right to vote, it should have just been left unsaid in law and to grassroots local organizations to sort it out. Reading all the links you provided has only left me more confused at your position. Again, passing proactive legislation that protects home schoolers is exactly what we should be doing and is one of the best ways to protect AGAINST regulation. The default position of secular society is definitely not neutral, it’s against home schooling, so protections are needed.

    I’m glad there’s one organization that is the primary defender of home schooling rights in the country, it’s a much better situation than tons of small organizations all doing their own thing with no coordination (and varying level’s of expertise). Rest assured, unless the rights of parents to home school their children are explicitly protected in law, those rights will be trampled all over by the educational establishment. I can only guess you may have had a bad personal experience with HSLDA trumping the efforts of a local organization you work with, or some other personal encounter, but based on the facts HSLDA’s is a competent and highly advantageous organization to have on our side.

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Brendan, no worries, I am certainly not out to convert you to my position. πŸ™‚ The subject came up simply because I feel an obligation to always post a caveat about my objections to HSLDA’s agenda and methods if I am linking to them for any reason.

    I’ll just respond to a couple of points in your comment, for clarification:

    I can tell you with great certainty that there aren’t many people who agree with you on this one.

    Well, I can tell you that there are in fact many people who do agree with me. πŸ™‚ I’ve already provided some links and would be happy to provide more as time permits. Of course, you can find such information readily enough via Google searches. Naturally you may come to different conclusions based upon your research. But yes, I am one of many who hold this position.

    I can only guess you may have had a bad personal experience with HSLDA trumping the efforts of a local organization you work with, or some other personal encounter,

    Nope, I have had no direct personal contact or interaction with HSLDA whatsoever. I was a member for two years at the beginning of our hs’ing adventure, but my growing discomfort over the news they themselves reported in their e-lerts led me to do some digging, and when I became aware of the difference between HSLDA’s ideology and mine, I canceled my family’s membership. My objections are to their agenda and methods, not due to negative feelings over a personal encounter.

    Rest assured, unless the rights of parents to home school their children are explicitly protected in law, those rights will be trampled all over by the educational establishment.

    There are varying schools of thought on this. Like you, I am keenly aware of the need to be watchful over our freedom to homeschool. An excess of legislation is not, to my mind, the ideal way to protect that freedom. Vigilant homeschooling watchdog groups like the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers have worked very hard (and continue to do so) to prevent overly intrusive regulations from requiring homeschoolers to jump through many hoops in order to satisfy state requirements.

    I’m glad there’s one organization that is the primary defender of home schooling rights in the country

    I think the only way to feel glad about that would be to agree wholeheartedly with all of the steps taken by that organization to “defend homeschooling rights.” So much of what HSLDA does makes me anything but glad. Here’s one more link (all I have time for tonight) to an example of an HSLDA action that I (and, yes, many others) did not believe was in the best interests of homeschoolersβ€”HSLDA-PAC’s endorsement of Gov. Huckabee as a presidential candidate. (Now no longer an issue, obviously, but it speaks to my point.) I say this specifically because of Huckabee’s track record on homeschooling-related regulation in Arkansas. Indeed, I find it alarming that HSLDA, an organization which purports to represent a broad membership, would endorse *any* political candidate. (HLSDA’s Political Action Committee, HSLDA-PAC, exists for that very reason: HSLDA itself may not officially endorse a candidate. But the PAC is an active part of the overall organization and reflects its mission.) And to be clear, I do not hold this position because there is some other candidate I would have preferred to see HSLDA-PAC endorse; my point is that HSLDA ought not to be aligning itself with any candidate, period.

  7. Brendan says:


    Just to be clear, I think you’re a great mom and a great home schooler, you’re the type of person I’m likely going to agree with on most things (which is probably why I was perplexed on this issue). But fair enough, sounds like we both have strong opinions. Just as an aside, I didn’t support Huckabee’s candidacy, but I know his support of home schooling is strong. His wife was in our local area during his candidacy to specifically speak to home schooling families about his support for home schooling, which I was impressed by. By, like I said, that’s an aside. Keep up the good work raising your wonderful kids and giving them the education they deserve!

  8. Melissa Wiley says:

    Brendan, thanks for your kind words. Right back atcha. πŸ™‚

    I know Huckabee is supportive of hs’ing; it was his track record on hs legislation that concerns me. He favored heavy accountability, and I just don’t think that’s in our best interests in the long run.

    But I am certainly happy to agree to disagree, and as you said, we probably agree on more issues than we differ on! πŸ™‚ Warm wishes to you and your family.