The Home School Court Report
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Compulsory Education Laws: The Dialogue Reopens

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a contrario sensu

“Phaces” of the Moon

After 5-year-old Joseph finished listening to me explain a science lesson about the phases of the moon to his 9-year-old sister, he decided to augment her instruction with his own somberly begun explanation: “You see, if the moon has a sad face, then it’s sad.” When we chuckled, he joyously concluded, “And if it has a happy face, then it’s happy!”

Mary Horey
Northridge, California

Alameda D.A. Drops Prosecution

By now, many of you have heard of the four Berkeley home schooling families referred by the School Attendance Review Board (SARB) to the Alameda County District Attorney for truancy prosecution. The D.A.’s office refused to prosecute—a decision consistent with its actions in past similar situations.

The four families, none of whom were members of Home School Legal Defense Association, all filed private school affidavits. Three operate under a private school independent study program. The Berkeley Unified School District was vague about why the families were considered truant. Curiously, the district did not assert that the families were illegally home schooling because the parents were not certified teachers. The SARB attempted to require the parents to present evidence of attendance and information regarding the course of study and curricula offered by the parents.

a contrario sensu

That Poor Pig

My 8 year old has taken quite an interest in his 16-year-old brother’s biology projects. He especially enjoys the dissections. The only problem is that he can’t quite master the terminology—he keeps referring to the fetal pig as the “fatal pig.”

Kari Carbajal
Mission Viego, California

The issue boils down to the authority of the public school officials to investigate truancy of private school students. According to California Education Code § 48222, the district’s authority to investigate truancy of private school students stops when the district verifies that the private school affidavit has been properly filed and that the child is enrolled in that private school. Verification of the affidavit filing is simple. The district can either contact the superintendent of public instruction’s office or the county superintendent’s office to verify filing of the R-4 affidavit. Equally simple, attendance is verified by contacting the private school administrator and confirming that the child is, in fact, enrolled and receiving instruction.

a contrario sensu

Presents for Daddy

Chelsea, 4, has very vivid memories of her Daddy, who, as Chelsea says, was taken to “live in heaven with God” when she was not quite 2 years old. In fact, Chelsea has her own special way of communicating with her father. She sends him presents, every chance she gets. Unlike most children, who upon receiving a helium balloon tie it to their wrist so it doesn’t blow away, Chelsea always lets hers go. She stands, then, watching it float up and up until she can’t see it anymore. Then, as she tells her mom, she knows “Daddy has it in heaven.”

Chelsea’s little sister Natalie, 3, knows that Daddy went to live in heaven before she was born and sometimes this troubles her, but words of wisdom from her big sister have eased her worries. Recently, Natalie asked her big sister, “When I get to heaven, Chelsea, how will I know Daddy?” Chelsea simply answered, “Just look for the man holding all the balloons. That’s Daddy.”

Joan Finch
Sacramento, California

The school district’s authority is limited to that granted by the legislature through state education code truancy provisions. The District Attorney’s office, in investigating truancy, is bound by the same law. Unfortunately, a press account reported that the D.A.’s office had referred the truancy investigation back to the police department. One possible means of investigation suggested by the D.A.’s office was a search warrant to obtain the records requested by SARB from the private schools. The D.A.’s office dropped this approach when it refused to pursue prosecution.

HSLDA’s position is that such a search warrant would be unlawful as there is no lawful authority to request production of courses of study, curriculum, qualifications of teachers and attendance records, etc., from private schools for investigation of truancy. Apparently, the D.A.’s office agreed.

The Berkeley situation highlights the unwillingness of some within the public school community to recognize the lawfulness of home educators operating as private schools in California. HSLDA is committed to defending the legality of home schooling in this state. We have offered our assistance to these families’ attorneys, and will continue to do so should this matter be litigated. Although individual families may find themselves in difficult situations at times, California home schoolers have much more freedom to teach their children at home than they would in most other states. — J. Michael Smith