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Was the California homeschool ruling ridiculous, or justified?

By Alice Bradley

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.

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

...

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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Lisa T
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Lisa T

i would suggest everyone with an interest in this subject take the time to: (1) read the opinion (which can be found on-line if you google some combination of “in re rachel l” “judge croskey” and “homeschooling”), and (2) read the analysis of the opinion written by deborah stevenson with the national home education legal defense [nheld]). the opinion does not criminalize homeschooling; nor does it call for the imposition of regulations that do not already exist: california regulates the education of the children living within its borders already, including those who are homeschooled. the legal question (“am i, the… Read more »

Marnie
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Marnie

I do think the judgment was far too strict, not to mention a little on the ridiculous side. I know plenty of bright parents who don’t have teaching credentials but homeschool their very bright children who amaze me with their abilities. That said, quick story: My SIL, who dropped out of high school but got her GED, planned to homeschool her daughter because she “just couldn’t stand to spend any time away from my precious little girl.” (Warning sign #1) She was *outraged* that the stated required proof that she had graduated from HS or had her GED (warning sign… Read more »

chelle
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chelle

Yeah, I can’t feel completely outraged at this. It does stand a test of reason that those teaching children, at home or at school, should be held to some level of credentials.

SuburbanCorrespondent
Guest

Lisa is correct – the family in question hadn’t followed the rules to be legal homeschoolers in the state of CA. California does not allow homeschooling, per se; it allows public, private, and umbrella schools. Generally, homeschoolers register their homes as private schools (this is legal in CA) in order to homeschool. Others, however, choose to go with an umbrella school (this is what the family in question did); but then they have to follow the educational requirements of that school (which this family did not do). Hence, the judge’s ruling that the children be returned to the public system.… Read more »

L
Guest

Before schooling was made compulsory, beginning in Massachusetts in 1852, most students were tutored or self-taught. There was no certification or regulation required for teachers. How well did they do? Here’s a partial list of some of the students:
http://www.christianhomeschoolers.com/hs_famous_homeschoolers.html
For a broad look at the educational system in the U.S., take a look at John Taylor Gatto’s magnum opus, The Underground History of American Education (available free online):
http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/index.htm
Does anyone still remember, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Fairly Odd Mother
Guest

I can’t wait to see that Spenserian sonnet made into a music video and put onto YouTube. . .

MyTwoCents
Guest
MyTwoCents

Well, I am torn about this subject. I mean on the one hand, parents teach their kids how to walk, talk, dress, eat, and so on regardless of their credentials. But let’s face it, those are pretty easy, basic things to teach kids. As they get older, they need to learn more complex things and how do parents teach these things unless they know about them? I mean, it is kind of hard to believe that a mom that never even took chemistry can just get a book on it and start teaching her kid. Or that someone that has… Read more »

BC
Guest

The codes surrounding PRIVATE education in CA are not the same as those for private or home education in other states. There are some out-of-state folks who feel that this does not have a possibility of affecting all families in CA. The reality is quite different. Because this ruling was _published_ it can be used as precedent against any other family in CA. And what happens in CA is all too often used to influence what happens in other states. Independent homeschoolers in CA create their own PRIVATE schools and follow the SAME codes as any other PRIVATE school in… Read more »

kat
Guest
kat

of course there will always be parents who should not be in charge of their children’s education, but that number is minute! that tiny portion of the homeschool community pales further in comparison to the number of people in the world who should not be allowed to raise children at all. think how often you see people with their kids & say “wow they should not be allowed to breed.” why should the homeschool community be any different? the average homeschool parent, is not an average person. they have a love of learning, & believe that learning should not end… Read more »

Ken
Guest
Ken

As long as it is only binding on the case at hand, that is not quite as bad. Unfortunately it will probably be used as precedent not only in California, but across the country. From a public policy perspective, I don’t care if the kids were being beaten within an inch of their lives and only being taught to count backwards in Swahili. Focusing on the particular case is the only way to control that. In terms of the codes and regulations, I disagree with Chelle about it making sense that the parents have some level of credentials (particularly the… Read more »

Lisa T
Guest
Lisa T

“legal precedent” is a term of art that has a very specific meaning in the practice of law. the rachel l decision is a california state appellate court decision: that means it only has precedential value to other california state courts, and only insofar as the facts/law in other cases line up with the facts/law before judge croskey. the decision, though published, has no precedential value (as that term is understood by courts/attorneys) outside of california. commenters have expressed concern that judge croskey’s opinion could be used, somehow, outside of california. legislatively, california does have a tendency to lead the… Read more »

SuburbanCorrespondent
Guest

You know, maybe the problem with homeschooling parents is that they are so darned inarticulate.
Ha. Joke. Don’t catapult a marshmallow at me.

Marla Janssen
Guest
Marla Janssen

All I can say is that the best public schools are often unsafe and filled with negative behaviors. If public schools were the answer, we wouldn’t have a growing crime rate, in-school fighting, making-out, teen pregnancy, drug use, smoking, and on and on. *I know as homeschooling parents, you can add a lot of other behaviors onto this thought.

Ally
Guest
Ally

As a social work student, I feel I should mention that if you are enrolled in public school, that means you’re surrounded by mandated reporters of abuse, who, if they’re smart enough, will be able to tell that little Jimmy’s black eye, broken arm, and two cracked ribs were not, as he describes, caused by falling off of his bike. So you’re likely to be a bit safer abuse-wise if you’re enrolled in an actual school. However, my friends who used to go to private school in California but then moved to Pennsylvania and enrolled in public school have informed… Read more »

norm
Guest
norm

Wellllllll … I don’t know.
There’s a subset of homeschoolers (how big? I don’t know, but they are vocal and obvious) who are using homeschooling to teach religion (fine), racism, superstition, sexism, and intolerance (bad) because the public schools no longer provide said services.
Should those people be encouraged? NO. Should responsible homeschoolers be encouraged? SURE. I don’t think this ruling will make precedent, though.

Sunniemom
Guest

ROFL! Very good! I am thinking of founding a secret society called Subversive Home Educators for World Domination. Anyone care to join? To pass initiation you must launch an educrat into space with nothing more than dry ice and a jar of peanut butter. :p In our society it seems intuitive to license and certify and credential to ensure quality and safety, but the evidence does not support this. Ditto the idea that oversight prevents or catches abuse. Most abuse takes place before a child is school-aged, and there is obviously abuse in schools by school officials and staff as… Read more »

Trish
Guest
Trish

According to ESEA (The Elementary and Secondary Education Act Section 9506 b, c, and d) the federal government feels home school is legal “whether or not a home school is treated as a home school or a private school under state law” (section b)* home schooled defined Ed.gov: http://www.ed.gov/parents/schools/choice/definitions.html In California there are actually a few ways to home school(private tutor, Through ISP via private or public schools, through the Charters, “Underground”, or Being a private school)the last mentioned,through a Private School Affidavit, is really an underdog if that 200,000 number is correct. Over the years as a volunteer in… Read more »

blog nerd
Guest

What purpose does this ruling serve? “Credentialing” is a business just like anything else–there is money to be made in testing, test preparation, and certainly degree programs of all types. Where does the money go? To the state, natch. And like most forms of social governance it inflates the power of the state at the expense of the individual, or in this case, the individual family. When it comes to homeschooling, credentialing is an invasion of the state into the private home. The only appropriate measure in this case would be some form of testing, not of the parents but… Read more »

Susie
Guest
Susie

I have a friend who works for the school district up in Tehachapi. She’s a credentialed teacher and her job is to oversee about 70 families who homeschool in that district. I was shocked when she told me that there is no minimum educational requirement, no test, no proof that someone is qualified to homeschool. They only have to teach the required material. However, this teaching is hard to do when you don’t know what a consonant is, as one of the parents who is home schooling their children complained about, specifically “how am I supposed to teach her what… Read more »

Lipstik
Guest

I love what you put about homeschoolers and their parents. So true! I’m homeschooled (looking up the debate of homeschholers vs. CA for a research paper) and I bet, witha group of my friend, we could probably do everything you listed there. And don’t get me started about our parents. You are so right when you say they’re organized. Geez, it’s almost scary! But yeah, not ALL stereotypes of homeschoolers are correct, but most of thm actually are. Like, I’ve met many a homeschooler with a khaki jumper somewhere in their closet. Plus, most of my friends don’t have boyfriends,… Read more »