California Court Reconsiders Home Schooling

A California court has agreed to reconsider a decision curbing home schooling that has angered many Religious Right activists.

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that there is no constitutional right to engage in home schooling and went on to say that uncredentialed parents who take part in the practice could face criminal charges.

The case centers around a dispute between the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and Philip and Mary Long of Lynwood. The Longs home school their eight children. Mary Long said she acts as the teacher, even though she holds no teaching credential. Child welfare officials began investigating the family after one of their children complained of mistreatment.

Long and her husband claim the children are technically enrolled in Sunland Christian School in Sylmar. School officials consider the Long children enrolled, even though they engage in home study.

California law requires that children between the ages of 6 and 18 attend school full time, either public or private, and that they be instructed by a teacher or tutor who holds a state credential.

“California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. “Parents have a legal duty to see to their children’s schooling under the provisions of these laws.”

The ruling sparked an outcry from home-schooling advocates. James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, called the ruling “an all-out assault on the family” and “an imperious assault on the right of parents.”

But public school advocates pointed out that the ruling was a reasonable affirmation of a long-standing law and an attempt to make certain that youngsters being educated at home receive proper instruction.

On March 25, the court announced that it will re-hear the Jonathan L. and Mary Grace L. v. Superior Court of the State of California case.