On Feb. 28, 2008, Judge H. Walter Croskey of the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled that children from the age of 6 to 18 years old can not be homeschooled unless the adult person providing the education holds a valid California teaching credential (Witte & Mero, 2008; Time, 2008). Judge Croskey relied on laws going back half a century stating that "California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children" (Witte & Mero, 2008; Time, 2008). The judge went on to say that any individual teaching without a valid teaching credential in a home environment might have to face criminal action against them. This ruling might affect over 166,000 homeschooling families in California.
The California court’s prohibition on homeschooling by teachers who do hold valid accreditation violates parental rights, limits choices in education and infringes on religious beliefs. Furthermore, the court’s position also goes against other court rulings. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters the court ruled that children were not "the mere creature[s] of the state" and that the responsibility for the education of children belonged to the parents or guardians and that the right for a parent or guardian to choose the manner of instruction was a liberty protected by the Bill of Rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (258 U.S. 510, 535). Thus, the California court’s ruling that homeschooling was unconstitutional violates parental freedom of choice as to how their children are to be educated and denies their liberty. It is not the government’s role to decide how a parent is to raise a child. The government is there to serve the citizen not the other way around. The California ruling raises a number of ethical arguments. The first ethical question is whether the law is right. Judge H. Walter Croskey based his decision on a ruling that was handed down in 1953 and it is not clear how the rationale used in that particular ruling applies in this case because there has not only been a tremendous change in the educational resources available to educator and student alike, but the educational level has risen substantially since then, meaning that parents are now significantly better equipped to educate their own children than parents were half a century ago. It can be easily argued that the ruling of 1953 is out of date and bears little significance on the situation of today and should not be relied on to guide us now.
The second ethical question is who does the ruling serve. Teachers unions are happy with this ruling for the group is served well by it, and their was unanimous in favor of the court’s ruling. On the other hand, parents in school districts that have poor records of education are prevented by this ruling to take matters into their own and homeschool their children to ensure their child is getting the proper education. That is, teachers win and parents lose.
The third ethical question is whether homeschooled children are receiving a good education. Studies have shown that children who have received schooling at home perform better in state exams than children attending either public or private schools (Tipton, 1990). Homeschooled children were significantly represented in the top centile of the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, the test against which schools are evaluated for their success in educating students. Studies have also shown that homeschooled children are better socialized, more emotionally adjusted and more mature than other children (Stough, 1992).
However it must be noted that Judge H. Walter Croskey could not have reached any other decision for it is the duty of the court to interpret law, not to make new law, although a case might be made that the law violates the Bill of Rights Fourteenth Amendment. It is therefore up to legislators to re-evaluate the issue and draft new laws to protect all shareholders in education.
Nevertheless, opposition by homeschool activists, legislators, Governor Schwarzenegger, and many other groups and individuals prompted the California court to revise its decision a few months after the ruling was passed. In this later case, the court went further back to 1925 and relied on Pierce v. Society of Sisters again recognizing that "the child is not the mere creature of the state."
However, new regulations were called for the homeschooling of children. While the court recognized that parents have the right to dictate their children’s learning environment it also expressed concern over the lack of an express statutory and regulatory framework to guide home-based education of children.
A bold move would be for homeschooling concerns to draft partnerships with teachers unions and try to find a way to support each other in educating the children. The teacher unions in California already recognize the need for alternate schools for certain cohorts of students, that is, they do know that the system is not working for many students. Another bold move would be for teachers unions to collaborate in establishing educational programs specially designed for parents who homeschool their children. In today’s overcrowded schools this would be a win-win situation.
Kloberdanz, K (2008). Criminalizing home schoolers. Time. Mach 7
Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)
Stough, L. (1992). Social and emotional status of home schooled children and conventionally schooled children in West Virginia. Master’s Thesis, University of West Virginia. Available at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED353079&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED353079
Tipton, M. (1990). An analysis of home-schooled children’s Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills results and demographic characteristic of their families. Master’s Thesis Antioch University.
Available at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED336208&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED336208
Witte, D.E. & Mero, P.T. (2008). Removing classrooms from the battlefield: Liberty, paternalism, and the redemptive promise of educational choice. BYU L. Rev. 377