Michigan and Iowa are two of the last three states that still require parents to be certified in order to teach their own children at home (the third state is North Dakota). As a result, many homeschoolers have been charged in those states with violating the compulsory attendance statute since they refuse to use a certified teacher. The reason the families refuse to use a certified teacher is because they believe God has called them, as parents, to personally teach their own children.
In Iowa, HSLDA is presently defending the Trucke family in the case Iowa v. Trucke, No. 86-530, awaiting the decision of the Iowa Supreme Court. On April 10, Michael Farris flew to Des Moines and argued the Trucke case before the state supreme court. Farris argued three basic issues: 1) The 1953 Act that changed the term “competent” to “certified” was improperly enacted because it violated several key rules of constitutional construction required under the Iowa Constitution. 2) Since the federal district court in the Fellowship Baptist Church struck down the requirement for “equivalent instruction” as unconstitutionally void for vagueness, the whole statute should be struck down. In other words, the requirement for teacher certification must also be ruled void for vagueness because it is inseparable from the equivalent instruction requirement. 3) The Trucke family’s First Amendment right to teach their own children as dictated by their religious convictions is burdened by the lower court’s ruling. 4) The requirement of a certified teacher is vague as to how much time that certified teacher must actually teach.
Be praying that the Holy Spirit will give the Iowa Supreme Court the wisdom to do justice in this matter.
Meanwhile, on March 4, 1987, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa ruled on several motions in Trucke v. Erlemeir, et al., No. C86-4181, a civil rights action which HSLDA brought on behalf of the Truckes. The Truckes’ local school district had recommended prosecution of the Truckes for this school year and HSLDA, in turn, sued the school district for violating the civil rights of the family. The court denied the State's motion to dismiss and motion to abstain. The court also denied HSLDA’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the Truckes from being prosecuted. However, HSLDA has agreed to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice the federal suit pending the outcome of the Trucke case before the Iowa Supreme Court. The school district, in addition, has refrained from bringing further charges against the family.
HSLDA staff attorneys have been successful in resolving about 15 legal situations this year where homeschoolers would not use a certified teacher because of their religious convictions. HSLDA was able to convince the local superintendents and prosecutors to indefinitely postpone any legal prosecution based on the arguments raised in the Trucke case before the Iowa Supreme Court.
However, one local prosecutor could not be persuaded to postpone legal action and subsequently, the Giesekes, an HSLDA family, were charged with violating the compulsory attendance law. HSLDA hired attorney Craig Hastings of Ames, Iowa, to defend the family. On April 21 and 22, HSLDA Vice President Michael Smith flew out to Iowa to assist Hastings during the trial of the Gieseke case. The judge still has not ruled on the issues raised.
In Michigan, homeschoolers are also in the midst of battle since they are now required to use a certified teacher to teach all classes in the home.
The HSLDA legal staff has counseled over 67 Michigan families in the last few months who have been sent the “Home School Membership Report” by their intermediate school district. HSLDA takes the position that homeschoolers are not required to fully comply with the compliance procedures because the state department of education has no authority to pass such procedures. In fact, the assistant attorney general has stated in recent legal memorandum that the Michigan Department of Education has no authority to promulgate administrative rules regulating homeschooling. Therefore, HSLDA urges its member homeschoolers who receive the “Report” to only fill in part of the report and send it back after counseling with the attorneys at our national office.
Most school districts are waiting for the law to be clarified before they try to enforce the “Compliance Procedures.” In addition, even if a school district decided they wanted to enforce the new rules, they are still required by the Haines decision to initiate administrative hearings before the state department of education whenever they suspect a homeschooler is not complying with compulsory attendance requirements. Administrative hearings are much less severe than having homeschoolers criminally charged with child neglect.
Meanwhile, the DeJonge family was recently convicted of violating the compulsory attendance law by the Ottawa County District Court (Michigan v. DeJonge, November 19, 1986) because the family refused to use a certified teacher. Attorney Dave Kallman of Lansing established an excellent record at the trial level, preserving key issues to be used on appeal.
Attorney Klicka of HSLDA prepared a 50-page appellate brief for this case on March 23 and filed it with the circuit court for the County of Ottawa (No. 12593-4-AR). Klicka raised three major arguments: 1) The requirement of a teaching certificate burdens the religious beliefs of the DeJonges and mandatory certification is not the least restrictive means of fulfilling the interest of the state that children be educated. 2) The requirement that nonpublic schools be “approved” violated the DeJonges’ due process right to have a neutral decision maker preside over whether or not they can homeschool. 3) The State never exhausted its administrative remedies dictated by statute, the state superintendent, the attorney general, and the Haines case. Instead of giving the DeJonges an opportunity to be heard at an administrative hearing and appealing to the state board of education, the State charged the DeJonges with criminal truancy.
While the DeJonge case was appealed, the district court sentenced the DeJonges to two years probation and required them to use a certified teacher. Kallman requested the judge to stay the effect of the sentence until the appeals were completed, but the judge refused. Dave Kallman then appealed to the circuit court, which granted Kallman’s request to stay the sentence indefinitely. As a result, the DeJonges can continue homeschooling without a certified teacher while the appeal is pending.
During the last week in April, five families in Oakland County were charged with violating the compulsory attendance law. Only one of the families, the Haines, are members of HSLDA. The Haines were charged last school year and the case was dismissed based on an order by the circuit court of Ingham County that stated the school district must follow the administrative appeal set forth in the statute before any criminal prosecution. The school district, therefore, appealed to the state board of education for an administrative hearing but the state board never scheduled a hearing. The Oakland County school district, as a result, decided to enforce the law themselves. HSLDA attorney Dave Kallman of Lansing has defended the families. Early in May, Kallman successfully argued a motion that the case should be dismissed until the administrative procedures are exhausted and the motion was granted.
In addition, in April, attorney William Ball filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting discretionary review of the Michigan Supreme Court split decision in Sheridan Road Baptist Church v. Department of Education, No. 73665, November 24, 1986. The decision of the Michigan Supreme Court was 3-3 upholding the lower court’s decision that certification is constitutional. However, because the decision is split, no supreme court precedence was set. The three judges who dissented argued that the state failed to prove teacher certification was the least restrictive means of guaranteeing that children would be educated. In fact, they held that the evidence was to the contrary. Ball has appealed for discretionary review to the U.S. Supreme Court but the Court denied it on May 18.
All homeschoolers need to be fervently praying that certification in Michigan will be finally defeated in the DeJonge case or by new legislation.