A ruling by the California Court of Appeal that parents who teach their children at home must have credentials has prompted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to promise to push through legislation to protect the rights of parents, if higher courts dont reverse the edict.
The decision came last month as the result of a case involving a Lynwood family, Phillip and Mary Long, who were taken to juvenile court by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The judge in the case found that the children were being poorly educated, but did not order that two of the youngsters, ages 7 and 9, be enrolled full-time in a school.
On appeal, the 2nd District Court of Appeal told the juvenile judge to require the parents to comply with state law by enrolling their children in a school.
The California Department of Education allows home schooling as long as parents file an affidavit with the state establishing themselves as a small private school, hire credentialled tutors, or enroll their children in an independent study program run by a charter or private school or a public school district. In these scenarios, the children can still be taught at home.
Further, the California Education Code exempts children in private school from mandatory public school attendance.
A spokesperson for Superintendent of Public Schools, Jack OConnell, said that the burden of verifying whether a school is actually a private school falls on local school districts who are required to enforce truancy laws.
Jennifer James, co-founder with her husband, Michael, of the National African American Alliance of Homeschoolers (NAAAH), said the ruling might have a chilling effect on the involvement of African American parents in the homeschooling movement.
It creates the stigma again. Homeschoolers worked so hard to drop the stigma that they are this weird sect of people that keep their kids inside. I think this will re-ignite the stereotype and scare people away from possibly homeschooling, said James.
According to the association co-founder, African Americans are the fastest growing segment of the homeschooling population. She estimates they make up a little more than 10 percent of the total population, which equates to about 100,000 African American children nationwide.
A lot of parents are fed up with their children not being given the same opportunities. There was one parent in Charlotte, NC, who said her child was in a school that had resource books from the 1980s. Those are the types of things that push African American parents to consider homeschooling, James added.
The movement for black parents to homeschool began strongly during the early 1990s in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, according to the NAAAH co-founder. There were a lot of well-to-do blacks in these areas, but they werent well-to-do enough to send their children to private school, so they began homeschooling, and it started to trickle across the country.
James said what previously kept African Americans from homeschooling was the belief that this option was not available to them. But as the phenomena became more prevalent in the media, James said the concept began to click with black parents, who reasoned they could do the same thing.
Back in California, homeschooling proponents as well as the Longs have said they will appeal the decision by the 2nd District Court. Meanwhile, the State Department of Education said the ruling does not immediately impact what they doaccept private school affidavits.