September 23, 2008
A California appeals court has ruled that homeschooling of children is illegal unless their parents have teaching credentials from the state.
“California is now on the path to being the only state to deny the vast majority of homeschooling parents their fundamental right to teach their own children at home,” said Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The court overturned a lower court’s finding that homeschooling did not constitute a violation of child welfare laws.
“California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” Justice H. Walter Croskey said.
The decision stunned parents of the state’s roughly 166,000 homeschooled children. While the court claimed that it was merely clarifying an existing law and not making a new one, the decision leaves the parents of homeschooled children at risk of arrest and criminal prosecution.
“At first, there was a sense of, ‘No way,’ ” homeschool parent Loren Mavromati said. “Then there was a little bit of fear. I think it has moved now into indignation.”
Parents’ reasons for homeschooling their children range from religious beliefs to dissatisfaction with the education received at public or private schools. But according to the court, all California children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend either a full-time public or private school or be taught by a tutor credentialed for their specific grade level.
“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation,” Croskey wrote.
California’s largest teachers union welcomed the decision as did the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles.
According to the law center’s executive director, Leslie Heimov, children should not be educated at home, because they need to be “in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety.”