Texas Drags On
The united effort of homeschool families all over the state of Texas was the main reason their state board of education was stopped from creating a set of proposed regulations which would have sufficiently defined homeschools
and prevented most of Texas homeschools from operating.
Thousands of letters opposing the regulations were received and 5000–6000 homeschoolers attended an April 10 hearing in Austin. In addition, the Texas Legislative Council declared that the state board of education did not have the authority to regulate private education in the first place.
However, the state board of education did pass a resolution setting “suggested guidelines” for school districts to follow, delineating three options a private school (or homeschool) can follow in order to operate as a proper private school under the present compulsory attendance law: 1) the entity must be accredited by an accrediting organization recognized by the commissioner of education, 2) the entity must furnish evidence to the local attendance officer that it meets all the criteria of accreditation under option 1 without actually being accredited, or 3) the entity must meet three requirements: a) facilities must comply with local fire and sanitation codes, b) the entity must have a written regular plan of instruction sufficient to meet basic student educational goals, and c) its students must take an annually nationally recognized achievement test, the results of which must be given to the superintendent upon his request. These guidelines represented a positive swing in the board’s position toward homeschooling. HSLDA has used this resolution to effect a settlement in several homeschool conflicts where the school districts were still claiming that homeschooling is illegal under all circumstances.
Yet these guidelines are not binding on the school districts and many school districts have continued to threaten homeschoolers this year. For example, many school districts have taken the position that they will only allow homeschoolers to operate if they are enrolled in a correspondence school. Recently, attorney Chris Klicka got charges dismissed against a family in San Antonio who stopped using a correspondence or umbrella program this year. After negotiating with the school official and citing the board’s resolution and the pending class action suit, Klicka persuaded the school official that their policy was inaccurate. HSLDA’s legal staff has written several letters to other school officials who are harassing our members in a similar matter and all situations have been resolved.
Another HSLDA member in San Antonio had police come to their home along with the news media, investigating accusations by the social service agent that child abuse was taking place. HSLDA’s legal staff called the social services’ legal department and the attorney of the school district and are in the process of resolving the situation, thus avoiding charges against the family.
Texas homeschoolers have been looking to the Leeper case decision to determine the legality of homeschooling under current Texas law. HSLDA is one of several plaintiffs in the case who have asked for a permanent injunction to stop the prosecution of all homeschoolers until the compulsory attendance law is ruled unconstitutionally void for vagueness and the statute is amended by the legislature to allow homeschooling.
The “out of court settlement,” which was to be finalized October 17, 1986, fell through after the state board consented to a preliminary draft of the settlement but refused to agree to a revised version. The agreement stated that a homeschool is a private school and in compliance with the Texas compulsory attendance law if a) the children are “regularly and diligently” pursuing in the home a “written curriculum,” b) the written curriculum must be “designed to meet the basic educational goals of reading, language arts, mathematics and a study of good citizenship,” and c) proof of the above will be established if the parents submit the results of a nationally recognized standardized achievement test. However, a standardized achievement test is not mandatory.
Since the settlement fell through, Leeper, et al., v. Arlington Independent School District, et al., No. 1788761-85, 17th Judicial District of Tarrant County, Texas, goes to trial on January 5, 1987. President Michael Farris flew down to Dallas in late December to help strategize with the homeschoolers and attorneys involved in the case. He has also conferred with constitutional lawyer John Whitehead to discuss the most effective arguments to use in the Leeper case. Homeschoolers should continue to pray for this case, that the result would bring maximum freedom to the parents of Texas.