Friday, August 08, 2008

Parents have the right to home school, California state court says

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

A state appeals court reversed itself today and ruled that parents in California have the right to home school their children even if they lack a teaching credential.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles had ruled Feb. 28 that the state's compulsory education law requires parents to send their children to a full-time public or private school or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home. The ruling caused an uproar among home-schooling advocates and could have made truants out of an estimated 166,000 children in California who are taught at home by their parents.

After hearing from an array of objectors that included state education officials and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the court agreed to reconsider the case and issued a new ruling today that reached the opposite conclusion: State law allows home schooling, although children can be required to attend school if they're being abused or neglected at home.

Although the compulsory-education law hasn't changed since 1929, some alter laws "demonstrate an apparent acceptance by the Legislature that home-schooling is taking place in California, with home schools allowed as private schools," Justice H. Walter Croskey, author of the earlier ruling, wrote in today's 3-0 decision.

"Recent statutes indicate that the Legislature is aware that some parents in California home school their children by declaring their homes to be private schools," Croskey said. He said one of those laws, a 1998 measure exempting parents from fingerprinting requirements imposed on private school employees, indicated "a legislative approval of home-schooling."

Because the 1929 law itself did not explicitly allow or prohibit home schooling, Croskey said, the court should interpret it consistently with the Legislature's current understanding, along with the views of state government and education officials.

He said such an interpretation also allows the court to avoid deciding "difficult constitutional questions" about parents' rights to exempt their children from compulsory-schooling laws. The previous ruling found that no such right exists. . .

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