Reviewing the past school year reveals encouraging successes for home-schooling families and important news on the legislative action front. HSLDA's legal staff has handled thousands of negative contacts for our members and has given advice and counsel to families who called for information or assistance. Our attorneys also spoke to home schoolers at conferences in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and throughout Canada.
Cases in Court
Among HSLDA members who celebrated victories in court was the Berlin family of Prince William County, Virginia. Judge Richard Potter ruled in favor of the Berlins' decision to educate their children under the certified teacher provision of the Virginia home education law, stating that parents are free to choose this option if they are qualified. Judge Potter's decision strengthens parental choice in Virginia and will help HSLDA defend other families currently trying to educate under the certified teacher provision.
A long-awaited victory finally came to Texas home schoolers when the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the home schooling plaintiff in Texas Education Agency, et. al. v. Leeper, et. al. (See the cover story.) HSLDA rejoices with Texas families, who are now free to teach without registering or seeking the approval of a local school district. This victory reinforces HSLDA's support of home schoolers living in states without a home school law.
In Rhode Island, HSLDA avoided prosecution of the Viveiros family for 1993-94. In Massachusetts, HSLDA held off prosecution for numerous cases and on appeal of our federal case, Pustell v. Lynn, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's negative ruling. HSLDA also kept four conscientious objector families out of court in Iowa.
Several school districts attempted to impose regulations exceeding state laws. School officials contacted home schoolers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas, claiming families filed improperly, failed to comply with home school law, or did not meet state requirements. Some districts insisted HSLDA member families would have to discontinue home schooling if they did not comply with arbitrary procedures or "regulations," including inspection of records, mandatory testing, proof of attendance, and proof of parental competency to teach. Many families faced illegal home visits, demands for information which overstepped the boundaries of the law, and threats of legal proceedings. The majority of these contacts were based on inaccurate interpretations of state law or officials' unfamiliarity with home school regulations. HSLDA worked with member families and state legislators to clarify home education requirements and prevent further infringement of home schoolers' rights.
On the Legislative Front
HSLDA attorneys continued to assist home school leaders in their legislative actions in almost every state, helping to repeal objectionable statutes, draft amendments to regulations, and clarify home-schooling laws for state officials. This year HSLDA lawyers testified before the state legislature in Colorado and contacted or met with school district officials in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
The result of home schoolers' legislative actions were significant and exciting. Parents of special needs children in Arkansas welcomed a favorable interpretation of special education requirements which makes it clear that parents do not need to be certified to teach special needs children. In California, Governor Pete Wilson vetoed two potentially harmful bills, including the California Children's Bill of Rights and Assembly Bill 1654, which attempted to provide early childhood home visitation programs for families deemed "at risk" of child abuse and neglect. HSLDA held Colorado school officials accountable for attempts to impose illegal regulations on home schoolers, and helped prepare a bill to improve and protect home schoolers' rights in the state. Senate Bill 560 died in committee after the Christian Home Educators Confederation of Kansas (CHECK) worked diligently to oppose it. A harmfully revised parental rights amendment was also defeated in the Kansas State Legislature. Governor Engler of Michigan signed into law Act 175 of 1993, recognizing the right of home school children to participate in any public school activity. South Dakota home schoolers celebrated when Representative Barbara Everist withdrew House Bill 1262, a dangerous piece of legislation which would have required that all teachers in the state be certified by the year 2000. Governor Gaston Caperton gave West Virginia home schoolers two alternatives to the standardized testing requirements when he signed House Bill 4546 into law in March. The law also allows students who fall below the 40th percentile mark three years to catch up instead of two. In Wisconsin, State Superintendent John Benson assured home schoolers he did not back a resolution to regulate home schooling, and that he had "no intentions of interfering with the rights of home schoolers."
Home School Legal Defense Association members have enjoyed working alongside home school leaders in various states to protect home schooling and safeguard family freedoms. We are thankful for victories both large and small, and we give God the glory for the advancement of home schooling over the last year. He has protected families and shown mercy to home schoolers who have faced time in court and difficulties with school officials. As the 1994-95 school year gets underway, please pray that God will continue to protect and guide home schoolers and give our leaders wisdom and understanding.