California Call-to-Action

March 16, 2008 at 7:04 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I meant to post this a few days ago, but didn’t get around to it ’til now.


(written by [Crystal Paine’s] husband and attorney, Jesse Paine)

Much ink has been spilled over the last few days over the California Court of Appeal’s recent decision over homeschooling. Some of it has been hype, some measured warning. In light of all the attention and potential broad affects of the ruling, I decided to read it for myself and present my own call to action.

The Decision
On February 28, 2008, the California Court of Appeals handed down a ruling effectively turning back the clock on home education for thousands of parents in California. The case was part of a complex series of appeals to the Court of Appeals from the juvenile court in Los Angeles County.

In the underlying case, a complaint had been brought against a family of eight, where it was alleged that the father was physically and emotionally mistreating the eldest child. In the course of investigating this complaint, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services discovered that all eight of the family’s children were being educated at home by the mother and were not being sent to a brick and mortar school.

During proceedings in the juvenile court, attorneys representing the children asked the court to order that the children not be educated at home and instead be enrolled in a public or private school. The lower court, however, declined to make such an order, and instead observed that the parents had a constitutional right to homeschool the children, despite the fact that the education they had been receiving at home was, in his words, “lousy,” “meager,” and “bad.” He further observed that, as a matter of policy, children should attend brick and mortar schools because of socialization concerns, opportunities for professional counseling, and exposure to various forms of diversity.

The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals based on the sole question: Is it legal to homeschool in the State of California?

The court determined that it was not legal to operate a home school under the compulsory attendance laws of the state. Under California’s education milieu, a minor child must attend a public full-time day school, unless the child is tutored by a properly credentialed teacher for the grade being taught.

The court reasoned that a mother teaching a child at home is not a properly credentialed teacher under the law and that attendance at any form of school other than a brick and mortar school was insufficient under the statute.

The court also noted that, although the family was a member of an independent study program (ISP), California law only recognizes ISP’s as a tool of the public education establishment for directed learning, and not as a vehicle for conducting home education, especially because it failed the traditional “brick and mortar” test for a “school” under the law. As such, the ISP was acting in conjunction with the family to skirt the compulsory attendance law and was illegitimate.

Additionally, the court completely disregarded the family’s federal constitutional argument that they were educating their children at home because of a sincerely held religious belief. This in and of itself was the most disturbing part of the case for me, due to the light treatment it received by the court.

The Effect
This decision is a blow to home educators across the State of California and the rest of the country. In California, the case could in theory expose families to truancy prosecutions punishable by fines, according to the decision. But reality does not always follow theory.

If the decision does stand, criminal prosecutions and civil contempt penalties (for failure to obey court orders) will probably be relatively few and far between. Last I checked, California had other criminal problems more pressing than homeschool parents. Because it is a published opinion (more on this below), this decision could have devastating effect in those states were homeschooling is protected only by a mutual understanding of all parties not to enforce truancy laws against homeschoolers because of their good-faith efforts at actually educating their children.

While this case is a California case and may only be binding in California state courts, it may nevertheless (as long as it remains published) be cited by edu-crats and the education establishment as “persuasive authority” to adopt similar standards in other states. Basically, they would be saying, “Look, California has gone the way of the caveman, and this why and how, and we should adopt California’s reasoning and methods and go the way of the caveman ourselves.”

The Call-to-Action
This brings us to the call to action. With all that has happened, what can we do? What should we do?

1. First, and foremost, you can and should PRAY. Pray for the family involved in this litigation. Pray for the attorneys involved (for wisdom for the attorneys appealing to the California Supreme Court and for confusion for the state’s attorneys). Pray for the judges hearing the case. Remember, God is still sovereign and on the throne. He holds the heart of the judges in His hand and can change it on a moment’s notice.

Finally, pray for peace amongst the homeschooling community. I have seen a lot of hand-wringing over this case in recent days and a real need for the peace of God that passes all understanding. We need to keep our eyes focused on Him and trust Him for the result. As I said before, this did not catch God by surprise–He is in control.

2. If you haven’t done so already, sign the petition from HSLDA. Do something–even if it’s a small thing. Go here to sign the petition:

3. Write to your local paper or online in support of home education. One of the striking parts of this decision is that it totally ignores any result-based method of looking at what constitutes a quality education. I guess in California, you can only get a quality education if you sit in a classroom with four walls with 20 other children your own age for 6 hours a day. Let your community see otherwise; let them see the positive opportunities and experiences that are everywhere in home education!

4. Do not lose heart! Remember the brave families that faced real threats and prosecutions in the 1980’s so we can stand where we do today. To them, decisions like this were the norm. It is because of their strength and fortitude that we can stand today and decry this opinion as an aberration. Be strong and of good courage. Do not give in to the education establishment. It is your parental right and your parental duty to provide what is best for your children. And contrary to the California Court of Appeals, the State does NOT know best.

5. If you are in California, contact your state legislators and ask them to support Assemble Concurrent Resolution 115, a resolution introduced by Assemblyman Joel Anderson condemning the Court of Appeals decision. While this is in no way binding nor a change in the law, it nevertheless could be used to send a strong message of solidarity to other members of the legislature that homeschoolers are in it for the long fight and will not stand by to see their liberties trampled upon.

6. VOTE. In many jurisdictions, judges are elected by popular vote. Educate yourself on the issues surrounding judicial elections and judicial appointments and vote them out of office or vote to not retain them (if on a retention basis) if they have not been faithful in upholding the rule of law in their particular jurisdiction.

Finally, help support the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children in this country. This decision in California may only be the tip of the iceberg if the November elections give liberal Democrats a 2/3 majority in the U.S. Senate. I say this because of the looming United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by President Clinton and never acted upon by the Senate. If approved, this treaty will be the law of the land, on equal footing with the Constitution, and will greatly undermine the rights of parents in training and discipling their children.

There is a movement toward introducing a federal constitutional amendment protecting such rights from encroachment by over-zealous state government officers, like those in California, as well as international demigods in the U.N. If you want more information, go to


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