A California appeals court just ruled that parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their own children. They ordered the children to be enrolled in a government school. [Update: The option for a private school remained open as well.]
The appeals court cited a U.S. Supreme Court case (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 [45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070, 39 A.L.R. 468],
No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.
The Supreme Court said this applied to all schools, so, I'm assuming that it would apply to public as well as private schools.
Thus, a couple of questions:
- "That teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition". If this was enforced, what percentage of current public school teachers do you think would be summarily dismissed?
- "That nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare". If this was enforced, what percentage of social studies (read: revisionist history and fraudulent global warming "science") and sex education classes (read: education in promiscuity and perversion) do you think would be summarily dropped?
Back to the California case. The judges cited the paragraph above from Pierce v. Society of Sisters, but failed to quote a subsequent section which was really the key to that ruling:
The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. [Emphasis mine]
Pierce v. Society of Sisters overturned a 1922 referendum in Oregon that mandated attendance at public schools. The California appeals court misused that decision by taking one paragraph from it to buttress their weak argument against the religious and educational freedom of California parents.
The California judges' hostility to home schooling and religious freedom is manifest. The decision includes:
- repeated references to "uncredentialed" parents, as though being credentialed by the state guarantees that one will be a good teacher.
- a slap at the Christian home study program the parents had used, saying it had participated in "the deprivation of the children’s right to a legal education".
- a snide reference to the family "history" when forbidding the parents to hire a private tutor, saying it would "pose too many difficulties" for the tutor. The family apparently doesn't meet the judges' standards for a "quality" family; should the state credential parents just to be parents, too? Does having a less-than-perfect family life mean you give up your First Amendment rights?
- a sneer at those parents, and thus any parent, who holds religious reasons for homeschooling: "Moreover, such sparse representations [of religious beliefs] are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child". Since when do religious beliefs have to meet some arbitrary standard of "difficulty of assertion" to be legitimate? And if home schooling is a fundamental right (as I believe it is), since when does a parent need any kind of religious belief, sparse or not, to educate his children at home?
Some have said that the parents involved in the California case are hardly poster children for the homeschool movement. Even if that's true (and I'm not totally willing to concede the point, as California child welfare authorities had determined that the children were not being abused and were doing fine), it doesn't matter.
Hard cases make bad law. This is particularly bad law, hard case or not.