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In re Rachel L. decision

By Ann Zeise

California In re Rachel L. Decision Vacated – 4/28/08
The In re Rachel L. decision handed down by the Court of Appeal of the State of California, has been vacated. California homeschooling back to normal.

The Following is History

The “In re Rachel L.” decision handed down by the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, in Los Angeles County, on Febuary 28, 2008, has become too controversial to ignore. For those trying to follow the discussion, I shall provide what resources I can muster here. As I am not an attorney, I shall leave the legal opinions to others.

I have been getting a lot of pleas to pass on information about signing a petition on the HSLDA website. I am NOT recommending this! If you are already a member of that organization and it makes you feel better, why not? If you are not a member, you are just giving HSLDA your contact information, and you may not agree with their political agenda. Legislation can be influenced by legally designed petitions, with verified signatures (This one has no signature verification.); however, this is not currently a legislative issue, but a legal one. Judges can only be annoyed by petitions, but their judgements cannot be swayed. Please, let’s not annoy the Supreme Court Justices!

See the new article: Legal Representation Announced by Homeschool Associations to learn more about how the legal wheels are already churning to get the decision depublished.

I donated some funds to the legal battle just now. Since I have a PayPal account, it was fast and easy.

Go here: HSC Membership and Donations page.

Just put in your contact information, check the “donation” box and how much you want to donate to the Legal Fund.

Then click on the “Join Now” button, even if you are already a member. Won’t matter. You’ll then be able to say how you want to make the donation, by credit card or PayPal.

It’s Easy! And you’ll actually be DOING something more worthwhile than signing a silly petition!

CHN also has a legal fund and is asking for donations.

From Debbie Schwarzer
HSC Legal Team Co-chair

I have been astonished about the hype about this case. So many have been making sensational claims that parents will be criminally prosecuted, etc.

Please rest assured about a number of things. First, the law, other than this court’s interpretation, hasn’t changed. Parents involved in a truancy prosecution might face criminal charges, but only after a rather lengthy series of hearings and court orders, and only if the parents failed to comply with the orders. It would be a criminal contempt charge, which isn’t nothing but doesn’t land you in Pelican Bay.

We have never known conscientious parents ever to be prosecuted under truancy laws to the point of contempt charges. It’s highly unlikely.

The media also appear to be saying that no one can teach their children without a credential. I am not certain that the holding is that broad, and I also doubt it would survive legal challenge.

The holding really applied to private ISPs (there are persistent mistatements, that began with fact statements in the case, that the family was enrolled in a charter. Obviously a school with the name “Christian” in it wouldn’t be a public charter. It was a private ISP). It could be read by someone reading broadly as applying to any situation where the child is not continuously in the presence of a credentialed teacher.

The court started on a very slippery path of appearing to think that some situations were OK and others weren’t, effectively trying to enact an entire code of regulations for governing this situation from the bench. He hasn’t been given the constitutional authority, of course, to do this.

How do we get rid of this case?

There are a number of paths. One is seeking actual review by the Supreme Court. HSC and at least several of the other major groups’ legal teams aren’t in favor of that. Even if you could get the court to accept your petition (they only take 3-5% of cases), the chances that it will be decided the way you want aren’t real good. It’s a very dangerous road to take, because if the Supreme Court were to affirm the appellate court ruling on either of the main points (constitutional or statutory), there aren’t many options left. The constitutional argument, of course, could be appealed to the US Supreme Court, but the statutory case about the proper interpretation of the California Education Code could not. California Supreme Court is the last stop on that road. If that happens, then you have two bad choices that I’ll discuss below.

There is another much easier choice, and it’s the one we want, as well as the one being trumpeted in the HSLDA petition. You ask the California Supreme Court to depublish the opinion, or, in other words, have them say that while this might have been the right result in this particular case involving this particular set of facts, the court finds that the reach of the opinion is overbroad and should not become law for the entire state. That is the choice we all (meaning HSC and, I believe, the other groups) want.

You get this by filing a letter with the Supreme Court in compliance with the applicable rules of court. While anyone can file one by stating their interest, we DO NOT think it is an appropriate use of grassroots activism. We DO NOT want every HSC member or HSLDA member or grandmother or irate citizen dashing off their letters to the Supreme Court. There are sober, measured, legal arguments to make about why depublication is appropriate, and those arguments are made after researching the applicable standards, etc. The Supreme Court will not be swayed positively by public outcry. In fact, it could backfire, and backfire badly.

If the Supreme Court affirms on the statutory points, then the two bad choices are to either seek legislation or to do nothing and hope that a further case is brought that can involve a better set of facts and better explanation of the issues (and reaching a better result). Both are very dangerous. Legislation isn’t the answer because of the extraordinary strength of the teachers’ union. It is unlikely we will see any legislation ultimately pass that gives us the freedom we have today. And the second choice is dangerous. I know lots of families that would make terrific test case defendants — they’re conscientious, they actually get their kids educated, they follow the laws. But we don’t get to pick who the family is. As a friend of mine said, we couldn’t have gotten a worse set of facts for this case if we had a contest.

We are trying to get one or more of the fanciest law firms in the state to help us on taking the fangs out of this case. We know what we’re doing. Please let us do our jobs.

I would be personally, professionally, and, as a representative of HSC, globally grateful if everyone on this list would calm down and ask others to calm down. Specifically, I would ask people:

a. Not to write to the Supreme Court or any court.

b. Not to talk to their legislators or make any public statements about a need for legislation.

c. Tell their neighbors, friends, lists, groups both of the above and to educate them about the choices available and about how panic isn’t necessary, marches on Sacramento aren’t necessary, etc.

I wish this were the type of situation where we could put the fury, passion and energy of the members of this list to good use. Trust me, if we end up having to go the legislative route, we will have that situation at some points. But this isn’t that type of situation, and too many folks stirring things up hurts instead of helps.

Thanks for listening.

The “In re Rachel L.” Decision

Note that at this time, early March 2008, we do not yet know the effect of the “In re Rachel L.” decision. Expert homeschool legal advisors are looking into this decision to see what repercussions it might have.

Legal Brief: In re Rachel L.
In this dependency case, we consider the question whether parents can legally “home school” their children. The attorney for two of the three minor children in the case has petitioned this court for extraordinary writ relief, asking us to direct the juvenile court to order that the children be enrolled in a public or private school, and actually attend such a school.

Recent California Appellate Court Decision
March 6, 2008. HSC is being represented by counsel in this issue, and we will consult with them about our options and about the best strategy for limiting the impact of this decision. It is not appropriate for us to state what that strategy is, but there are actions we can take that could significantly minimize any bad results.


Bulletin #60 – California Appellate Court Ruling – 03/08/08
Did you know that the sky is not falling in California? Homeschooling is still “legal” there, believe it or not. The lesson here is: don’t believe everything you hear or read. Go to the original source. Read it for yourself. Arm yourself with the truth and then you will be prepared to act appropriately. Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson, Executive Director.

In re Rachel L.
Page from the group that runs Sunland Christian School, which was the supposedly “legal” cover school for the Long family. In other words, their “spin” making them look like part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Is Homeschooling Still Legal in California?
Diane Keith, of Homefires, take on what is going on. Her advice: Be patient. Stay calm. If you are not a member of a homeschool organization – join one now. They help to protect your right to homeschool. Volunteer to help them in their endeavors. Then, relax, knowing help is on the way, and as one homeschool mom put it, “Go to park day and play.”

Poorly informed decision hurts CA homeschoolers
Homeschoolers everywhere need to keep a close eye on this case. I am very concerned about the reported physical and emotional mistreatment by the father. Alasandra & The Cats blog.

The Homeschool Scuttle
Blog by Annette Hall on her take on the Long’s case and current situation. As time goes by, you may need to locate these articles in the archives.


CA Homeschoolers ordered to send kids to PS
Beginning of thread on the HSC Yahoo Group, March 1, 2008. Thread did change its subject line as the discussion grew. You do not need to be a member of HSC to join the list, but it is a moderated discussion.

News Coverage

Schwarzenegger denounces ‘outrageous’ homeschooling ruling
by Jill Tucker and Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writerss March 7, 2008. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised today to ensure that parents have the right to homeschool their children, after a state appeals court ruling severely restricted the practice in California.

Homeschoolers’ setback sends shock waves through state
By Bob Egelko, Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writers March 7, 2008. A spokesman for the state Department of Education said the agency is reviewing the decision to determine its impact on current policies and procedures. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued a statement saying he supports “parental choice when it comes to homeschooling.”

Court: No Constitutional Right to Educate Children at Home
Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Monday, March 3, 2008. By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer. Parents do not have a right to home-school their children under the California Constitution, and must comply with the state’s compulsory education law even if they profess religious objections, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.

Homefires Legal News
Here are the latest news stories provided by sources other than Homefires to help you stay up-to-date on this important case that challenges the legality of homeschooling in California.

Warm Thoughts

Warm Thoughts to CA
Want to sign something to help boost the morale of homeschool families in California? We’d love to hear from you!

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