Calif. Homeschoolers to Battle for Rights in Appeals Court

A coalition of legal and homeschooling advocate organizations are scrambling to argue for the rights of families in California to homeschool their children.

In an amicus brief, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Western Center for Law & Policy, American Civil Rights Union, Christian Leaders, and Jewish Homeschoolers of Napa and Sonoma Counties have petitioned to have the Calif. Court of Appeals rehear a ruling that left thousands of homeschooling families in protest.

The pro-homeschooling coalition argues that the court ruling is unconstitutional, claiming that parents are protected in their right to educate their own children with their own values under the First Amendment Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses. The appeals court has agreed to rehear the case.

In February, homeschoolers in California were thrown into a panic after the state's 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that homeschoolers are only exempt from the state's compulsory school system if one of their parents is a certified tutor – a steep qualification requiring examinations and countless documents.

"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote in his summary opinion of the Feb. 28 ruling.

Many homeschoolers had been previously exempt from compulsory public schooling through their registration as private school students at the numerous self-run homeschooling associations throughout the state.

"Parents have a right to protect their children from forced government indoctrination," said ACLJ attorney Jacqueline Michelle Schaffer in a statement.

"They also have a right to direct the religious upbringing and education of their children. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees these rights to every American," she added.

The California 2nd District Court of Appeals was originally prompted to make its homeschool ruling after two homeschoolers allegedly claimed to have been abused by their parents. The children were taught by their mother, Mary Long, who lacked state recognized teaching credentials.

According to the California-based Pacific Justice Institute, there are an estimated 160,000 homeschoolers in California.