Custom Search

Thursday, March 06, 2008

State Appellate Ruling, Parents That Home School Must Be Credentialed

In what promises to be a very controversial court ruling, the California State Appellate Court has issued a ruling that says that parents that wish to home school their children must have teaching credentials.
The appellate court ruling stems from a case involving Lynwood parents Phillip and Mary Long, who were repeatedly referred to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services over various allegations, including claims of physical abuse, involving some of their eight children.

All of the Long children were enrolled in Sunland Christian School, where they would occasionally take tests, but were educated in their home by their mother

Background of this, via the Appellate ruling, shows that a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 petition was filed on behalf of three minor children after the eldest of them reported physical and emotional mistreatment by the children’s father.

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services investigated the situation and discovered, among other things, that all eight of the children in the family had been home schooled by the mother rather than educated in a public or private school.

The attorney representing the younger two children asked the juvenile court to order that the children be enrolled in a public or private school.

The dependency court refused to make such an order despite the court’s opinion that the home schooling the children were receiving was “lousy,” “meager,” and “bad,” and despite the court’s opinion that keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children’s lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ “cloistered” setting.

The original trial court's decision stated that the parents had a constitutional right to home school their children, so the attorney for the children went to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has jurisdiction over Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, and asked for "extraordinary writ relief", on the grounds that the original trial court's decision was an "was an abuse of discretion."

The Appellate court did not see it as an abuse of discretion but rather an "error of law" on the part of the original trial court.

In their ruling, (18 page PDF file), the Appellate court states:

The trial court’s reason for declining to order public or private schooling for the children was its belief that parents have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home. However, California courts have held that under provisions in the
Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children.
Thus, while the petition for extraordinary writ asserts that the trial court’s refusal to order attendance in a public or private school was an abuse of discretion, we find the refusal was actually an error of law. It is clear to us that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that private school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught, or (3) one of the other few statutory exemptions to compulsory public school attendance (Ed. Code, § 48220 et seq.) applies to the child. Because the parents in this case have not demonstrated that any of these exemptions apply to their children, we will grant the petition for extraordinary writ.

In this ruling, the court said that because Mary Long does not have a teaching credential, the family is violating state laws.

This is already causing some very serious controversy from groups opposed to this latest ruling by the Appellate Court.

According to the figures from Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the Sunland Christian School, which specializes in religious home schooling, approximately 166,000 California students are home schooled.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, states, "This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California. If the state Supreme Court does not reverse this . . . there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state of California."

Advocates for the families of those home schooled children vow to take this to the Supreme Court to overturn this decision by the Appellate Court.

Under the California State Education Code, this issue is not specifically addressed but does say that students must be enrolled in a public or private school, or can be taught at home by a credentialed tutor.

The California Department of Education currently allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.

According to the California Department of Education FAQS, it reads:

12. Other than traditional public school classrooms, what choices are available for my child's education?

California law explicitly recognizes four choices available to parents who wish to seek an educational setting other than a traditional public school classroom for their child:

1. A tutor who holds a current California teaching credential for the grade level being taught (EC 48224). The tutor must provide instruction:
* In the English language
* In all the branches of study required in the public schools
* For at least 175 days per calendar year
* For at least three hours a day between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Because the tutor must provide instruction in all branches of study required in the public schools, the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential satisfies the credential requirement at all grade levels. The Single Subject Teaching Credential is not sufficient at any grade level. The Multiple Subject Teaching Credential is valid for kindergarten through grade twelve in self-contained classrooms, whereas the Single Subject Credential authorizes teaching a special subject only, such as math or English. Further credential information is available from the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing (Outside Source) Web site.

The credentialed tutor may be the parent or any person employed by the parent. A tutor is not required to file the Private School Affidavit.

The Los Angeles Times article, linked above, states that California does little to enforce those provisions.

The president of United Teachers Los Angeles, A.J. Duffy, agrees with the Appellate Court ruling, "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he said.

Philip Long, the man that the eldest child accused of physical and emotional mistreatment, which started this whole case, claims that this ruling stems from hostility against Christians and has also vowed to take this to the Supreme Court.