Was the California homeschool ruling ridiculous, or justified?
A California appellate judge ruled that according to state law, homeschooling is illegal. Californian homeschoolers everywhere are surprised to hear that they’ve been flouting the law since the 1950s, but that, at least according to Judge H. Walter Croskey, is the case. Needless to say, this news is unnerving to homeschoolers in California—as well as the rest of the country’s homeschooling community, who fear that some kind of weird precedent is being set.
The news began with a single case of alleged child abuse. At least one of the eight children of Philip and Mary Long, residents of Los Angeles, filed an abuse complaint with the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. (I read elsewhere that two or more of their children claimed emotional and physical abuse by the father, but I’m not 100% on those sources.) DCFS found out that the kids were being homeschooled by their mother, who apparently does not have even a high school diploma, and was not able to educate her children at the appropriate level. So DCFS asked the courts to rule that the children must be enrolled in a public or private school. After the lower court denied the ruling, the case was appealed.
And thus it found its way to Judge Croskey, in appellate court. Judge Croskey took a close look at state law, and found that, by law, parents have to enroll their kids in a school or be state-credentialed teachers themselves. So in his finding, he took an isolated claim of abuse and turned it into a sweeping condemnation of homeschoolers. That’s the most galling part in all this: that instead of focusing on what’s best for this family, the judge has used the case to bring down an entire institution. And for what purpose? Forcing school on families won’t necessarily protect children. As Leslie Buchanan, president of the HomeSchool Association of California, states, “Public schools are not a solution to the problem of child abuse.” Certainly abused children can be found in every demographic and in any kind of educational set-up. I’m sure there are many cases of abuse where the child was a public-school student. Abusers have a way of isolating even the kids who aren’t kept at home to learn.
Most of all, I feel pity for Judge Croskey. You poor man. Of all the people to take on, you had to choose homeschoolers. Around 200,000 children are currently homeschooled in California. That means there are many many homeschooling parents angry with you right now, Judge Closkey, and you are making the wrong people mad. These parents have powers you couldn’t even fathom. Most average humans can’t teach their kids to operate a zipper, and these people are preparing their kids for college. The average parent falls to pieces at the end of a long weekend with the kids, yet these homeschooling super-beings have the intestinal fortitude to spend all day, every day with their (often numerous) children. And they’re organized. They have, like, associations, and leagues, and whatnot. Think they won’t start a letter-writing campaign? That’s their idea of recreation. You messed with the wrong people.
And don’t get me started on those homeschooled kids. You think the parents are trouble? The kids, they’re self-motivated. And they will get you. They will make the biggest marshmallow catapult you could imagine, and launch it right at your office. They will construct a Rube Goldberg device that can boil noodles, overturn your court decision, and give you an unflattering haircut before you even know what hit you. They will compose devastating Spenserian sonnets about your nonsensical ruling. Then they will construct a new court made entirely of popsicle sticks! And, hmm, insert another thing here that I imagine homeschoolers do!
So what’s next for California homeschoolers? With Schwarzenegger denouncing the decision and most state officials echoing his sentiments, the ruling seems unlikely to hold up. And even if it isn’t overturned, how are they going to regulate it? Who’s going to check on those hundreds of thousands of parents whose kids are being taught at home? Will they need to hire thousands of truant officers to deal with the logistical nightmare this decision seems to propose?
As always, your thoughts on this ruling, whether or not you’re a homeschooler, are welcome.