The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXV
No. 4

In This Issue


The Last Word Previous Page Next Page
by J. Michael Smith
- disclaimer -
One Year Later

Last year at this time, Home School Legal Defense Association and the homeschooling community were celebrating a victory in one of the most important court cases in the history of the modern homeschool movement. On February 28, 2008, the Second District Court of Appeal in California ruled that homeschooling was illegal unless the instructor was a certified teacher. This decision virtually outlawed the home education programs of over 100,000 children.

Because California is viewed as a legal and legislative trendsetter across the nation, homeschoolers were concerned that this decision could have further ramifications in other states where the private school exemption is used for homeschooling, particularly those without a court case specifically addressing the issue of homeschoolers operating as private schools. This concern spread throughout the homeschooling community and beyond, turning into national outrage over the decision.

HSLDA / Art Cox
J. Michael Smith, President, Home School Legal Defense Association

Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family conducted a radio program in which he called for a petition drive to ask the California Supreme Court to depublish the original opinion making homeschooling illegal. Nearly 250,000 people responded by signing the petition on HSLDA’s website within a matter of 10 days. To read the complete story about many organizations and homeschoolers working together to protect California’s homeschool freedom, see the November/December 2008 issue of the Court Report.

Finally, as the last in a series of miracles (chronicled in the Nov/Dec 2008 Court Report), the three-judge panel that had initially issued the opinion reversed itself unanimously on August 8, 2008.

From March 2008 through August 2008, HSLDA’s membership grew significantly. Not only were California homeschooling families joining, but many families from other states were signing up as well. Homeschoolers across the United States were concerned that this decision could prompt other courts to rule similarly, placing homeschooling freedoms in jeopardy. Attendance at homeschool conferences increased, the media interest in homeschooling heightened, and the expressed concern for the future of homeschooling was unlike anything else that I had experienced in my 25 years of defending homeschool families. In fact, the state of Idaho actually amended its law to prevent any negative repercussions from the California case.

But just one year after the Jonathan L. decision, apathy is already a danger. Attendance at homeschool conferences seems to be down, and media focus on homeschool freedom has diminished. But we can’t afford to let apathy slowly choke our freedom.

In January 2009, another danger resurfaced: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Back in 1995, the CRC was signed by then-UN Ambassador Madeline Albright, who sent it to President Bill Clinton to be submitted to the Senate for ratification. HSLDA opposed the CRC and supported a Senate resolution opposing ratification. Additionally, then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (NC) informed the Clinton administration that the CRC would pass “over his dead body.” Later, President George W. Bush made it clear that he would not send the CRC to the Senate for ratification during his term of office.

Now President Barack Obama is concerned that only the U.S. and Somalia have refused to ratify the CRC, leaving them out of step with the rest of the world. With the majority party showing a strong interest in becoming more involved with the international community, the CRC’s submission to the Senate seems imminent.

As HSLDA has long asserted and confirms, the CRC would significantly impact parental rights, specifically homeschooling freedoms. An 18-judge UN committee in Geneva has the power to issue opinions on whether the countries that are parties to the CRC are in compliance. This committee found Great Britain out of compliance with the CRC because children being homeschooled there have not been given choices regarding the type of education they receive. This implies that CRC enforcers believe that homeschooled children who want to attend a public school instead should be able to do so. Interestingly, the committee did not reach the same conclusion regarding the rights of children in public schools who want to be homeschooled.

With the CRC looming and creating the need for a parental rights constitutional amendment, now is not the time for the homeschool community to take our freedom for granted. At this critical time in homeschool history, we need to be committed as a movement to remaining strong.

We at HSLDA believe that our part in keeping the homeschooling movement strong goes beyond individual legal representation for member families. Just as critical is the work of advocating in state legislatures, the media, and Congress for the increased freedom to homeschool in the United States and around the world.

On behalf of our board members and our staff, I want to thank you for your support and your refusal to be apathetic in a time that could become the most challenging ever for all of us in terms of our parental freedoms. I assure you that we will do everything within our power to defeat the CRC and secure your children and grandchildren’s freedom through passage of the parental rights amendment. I’m confident that, with your help and support, we will be successful in continuing to advance and protect the freedom to homeschool in the United States—but it will require a team effort.

I am reminded of Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

We must do our part, which is to labor more diligently than ever to protect our freedoms, as we rely on God to faithfully defend us.