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THE A-to-Z of Homeschooling
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Court Ruling Jolts Homeschool Community

By Ann Zeise

Court ruling jolts home-school community
by Ali Abdollahi, Milpitas Post
with comments in brackets by Ann Zeise..

Parents and educators were shocked by a ruling in late February that stated all parents who wish to home-school their children in California must receive teaching credentials. The decision by a three-judge panel at the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles was in response to a case in which a father who has home-schooled all of his eight children was accused of being physically abusive.

“I don’t understand how a child abuse case returned a verdict that would essentially kill home-schooling in California,” said Ann Zeise, Milpitas resident and creator of the A to Z Home Schooling network, an online resource used by more than 50 million home-schoolers. [I think the writer confused my page views over a decade with the number of homeschoolers. There are approximately 1.3 million homeschoolers in the USA. No where near 50 million!] “This just appeared out of the blue. This was not even a case that the home-school community was following closely. [Not following all! The Long family had not requested help from any of the large homeschool associations.].

“It is amazing the panic this has caused here and in other states,” added Zeise. “I have seen posts online stating that, “The law in California has been changed!’ In reality, the law in California has not been changed one bit.”

The state’s two highest authorities on such matters Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell have both come out publicly condemning the ruling and assuring Californians that the law has not changed.

“Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children’s education,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts, and if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights, then, as elected officials, we will.”

O’Connell issued a press release Tuesday in which he wrote, “I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents that chose to home-school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home-school in our state.”

Assurances from experts and public officials have not prevented strong reactions among some parents..

Attorney Debbie Schwarzer of [The HomeSchool California Association, not the law firm.] Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati the firm that is representing the Home School Association of California said, “I have been astonished by the hype about the case. So many have been making sensational claims that parents will be criminally prosecuted, etc.”

Zeise said about 166,000 children are home-schooled in California. [A number I calculated on my site.] The state Department of Education does not publish home-school estimates, partially because of the varying definitions of home-schooling.

Under one of the state options for home-schoolers, many parents choose to register their homes as small private schools, a status that does not require credentialed teachers and then enroll their children in their school. Statewide, there are more than 18,000 students attending private schools with five or fewer students, according to state figures. [I don’t know where he got that figure. I think he believed another publisher.]

Another complication of the recent court ruling is whether larger private schools, which currently are not required to have credentialed teachers, will have to begin requiring credentials.

According to Schwarzer, the flexibility for home-schoolers in California was not born out of sympathetic legislation, but rather a lack of legislation. That is why she said challenging this ruling through legislative channels is the wrong move for home-school advocates.

“Legislation isn’t the answer because of the extraordinary strength of the teachers’ union,” Schwarzer said. “It is unlikely we will see any legislation ultimately pass that gives us the freedom we have today.”

What Schwarzer [of HSC and with the firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati] and a team of attorneys from Baker & McKenzie which is representing the California Homeschool Network seek, is to have the decision “depublished” by the state Supreme Court. By depublishing the case, Schwarzer said the high court would effectively rule that “while this (decision) 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.”

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.

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