Three Cases Resolved
The 1994-95 school year ended in California with quite a bit more excitement than the 1993-94 school year. Three Home School Legal Defense Association families were filed on in court because of their home schooling. All of the cases have been dismissed, and the families look forward to teaching their children at home for 1995-96 school year.
One case was filed in San Diego city and two cases were filed out of the Chowchilla School District. The most interesting case of the three was the one filed in the city of San Diego, which developed because of a complaining grandparent. After receiving complaints for over a year, the San Diego City Schools turned our member, a single parent, over to the San Diego City Attorney's Office. The practice in San Diego for handling truancy is to file a criminal complaint against the parent in juvenile court. The San Diego City Attorney's Office handles all truancy complaints, and the matters are assigned to a juvenile court commissioner who mediates disputes by encouraging parents to enroll their children in public school.
This is not typical of the way school districts in California normally handle truancy against home schoolers. Usually, the matter is handled by way of a criminal complaint filed in municipal court against parents alleging an infraction for failing to send their children to school. This is how the two Chowchilla families were processed against.
The juvenile court has concurrent jurisdiction with the municipal court for an allegation against a parent who fails to send a child to school under Education Code § 48293. San Diego City Schools follow this procedure.
HSLDA Vice President Michael Smith, the attorney assigned to defend California families, along with local counsel Rex Lowe, appeared on behalf of the member family in juveniles court. After a lengthy discussion with the supervising deputy city attorney, the City Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss the case based upon the fact that the member family was enrolled in a private school independent study program in the San Diego Area. It didn't hurt the member family's case that Attorney Smith had previously worked for the City Attorney's Office years before as a prosecutor.
School officials appeared at the court and did go along with the dismissal, although they were obviously not pleased to lose jurisdiction over the home school family. The authorities indicated their belief that every child living within the school district's borders should be subject to some control of the local school district. Michael Smith informed the school officials that children enrolled in a private independent study program must be treated the same as children enrolled in any private school program in California. Therefore, the responsibility for the education of the children lies with the private school, not public school officials.
The two cases filed against member families in the Chowchilla School District were dismissed without difficulty upon proof that the families were enrolled in a private school independent study program.
The most asked questions at this time of the year continue to be "What can we expect from the school districts and the state department of education for next year?" and "Where can we expect to see the most opposition?"
Based on past experience, we do know there will be new school districts that will take a harder line approach for the 1995-96 school year. The state department of education is not likely to change its negative position on home schooling in California unless a new legal counsel is assigned to the private school sector. The present legal counsel has indicated in a written opinion that the only legal way to home school in California is under the tutorial provision which requires the person doing the teaching to be certified.
We expect the same county superintendents to send out letters with the receipt of the private school affidavits for 1995-96 school year, indicating the party-line position of the legal counsel to the private school sectors in Kern, San Louis Obisbo, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. However, this is nothing new and has been the standard operating procedure for the last six years. We expect that Los Angeles county will again reject affidavits if they are not accompanied by a $25 fee. This fee is not provided for in the Education Code and HSLDA maintains that Los Angeles county is exceeding their authority under the Education Code to collect a fee for the processing and handling of the private school affidavit.
HSLDA holds to its position that a legal home school program can be conducted in a private home by one family, by a certified teacher under the tutorial exemption, or by participation in a private school independent study program. That private school may have a campus school, or the private school independent study program may be made up of individual satellite schools (i.e. homes as classrooms).
By way of reminder, those who are establishing private schools should file the private school affidavit by October 15th of this year. The affidavit can be obtained from the county superintendent's office. If you have less than five students in your school, you will not automatically receive an affidavit from the state and/or county superintendent's office.
We cannot make a final report for the 1995 legislative season in California, since 1995 legislation does not die until the end of 1996. However, thanks to the efforts of Family Protection Ministries and specifically the work of Roy Hanson, we can report that no negative bills affecting home schooling in California have passed.
Michael Smith works closely in conjunction with Family Protection Ministries to protect home school families in California against legislation which could damage their freedoms, whether intentional or unintentional. HSLDA strongly urges member families to support Family Protection Ministries. Their work can only continue with donations from the home school community. Anyone interested in supporting the efforts of Roy Hanson should contact Family Protection Ministries at 910 Sunrise Avenue, Suite A-1, Roseville, CA 95661. A donation of $30 will entitle your family to receive the monthly newsletter from the association, which is one of the finest newsletters on home education in America. You will also receive the latest information regarding legislation in California which affects home education.
Many of the bills which could be damaging to parental rights and potentially to home education have been delayed until next year. These bills are in the general categories of Goals 2000, outcome-based education, mandatory immunization, child early intervention, at-risk family, and school-to-work licensing bills. We will keep you informed of the status of these bills. Should there be a need for immediate attention, we will notify our California members.