Conflict in California
The new school year has begun with a flurry of activity in California. The biggest news for HSLDA is the continuing growth of membership in the state. California membership has increased from 1300 in June 1987 to 1600 in September. California is our largest state for membership. From this statistic, it is clear that California has the largest number of homeschoolers of any state and the numbers continue to grow on a daily basis.
As reported in the last issue, charges were filed against the Clevenger family of Lancaster. HSLDA attorney Michael Smith filed a demurrer arguing that the complaint was vague because the compulsory education statute (which included the various exemptions from compulsory public education) did not clearly define what would constitute activity which would be illegal. In other words, when the Clevengers contemplated how they would satisfy the California legal requirements to homeschool, the private school option seemed perfectly legitimate to them and there was no fair warning to advise them otherwise. Therefore, they relied on this understanding, filed a private school affidavit, complied with all the other requirements of the exemption, and now find themselves the object of a criminal prosecution.
The brief in opposition to our motion urges that it is clear that the family cannot be a private school because, among other things, they did not file a business license. There is no requirement that a private school obtain a business license. It is interesting to note, this brief was written by the county counsel instead of by the district attorney who is actually prosecuting the case. “In my 16 years of practicing law in California,” remarks attorney Smith, “I have never seen this before.” Smith believes that the school district was able to get the district attorney to file the complaint with the understanding that the county counsel’s office would do the legal research. Prior to the Student Attendance Review Board hearing for the Clevengers, the school district obtained a letter opinion from the L.A. County Counsel’s office indicating that a family could not establish a school in the home.
The hearing date for the demurrer was October 9, and attorney Jerry Crow of Ventura represented the family. The Honorable Margaret Grignon, however, denied the motion and HSLDA has entered a plea of not guilty. The trial date has been set for December 2 and Michael Smith will be arguing the case.
This is the only case presently pending in the state involving our members; however, from the quotes that have been reported to us from various newspaper articles surrounding the instant case, the school officials are looking for a fight. Del Royer, an attendance and administration consultant for the L.A. County Board of Education, said, “We are looking for a test case, it doesn't matter which way it goes, just so it gives us some direction.” Royer believes that the potential for educational shortcomings in homeschools is great. He also has publicly stated that compulsory education laws were passed to establish rights for a child and to get us out of the Dark Ages.
Isn’t it interesting that before compulsory education statutes, literacy was at its highest? Could it be that the advent of compulsory education laws has been the leading cause of parents’ lack of involvement with the education of their children and the increasing cause of the general moral breakdown of our country because of the public schools’ inability to assist the parent in the inculcation of morality?
Officials from public schools need to recognize the inherent benefits of home teaching compared with institutional education in order to end the conflict between homeschools and public schools. It is emotional statements like Mr. Royers’ which cloud the real issue: are homeschools providing an adequate education for children? The statistics say yes. This failure to honestly deal with the statistical success of homeschooling fosters ignorance in others, such as legislators, who are not familiar with homeschooling.
Homeschoolers who have filed a private school affidavit in the Los Angeles City School System may be visited by a representative from the district. The purpose of the visit will be to verify the information in the affidavit, and to insure that the homeschool family is in compliance with the Private School Statute. As a reminder, homeschoolers need to maintain an attendance journal, and be prepared to show that their children are being instructed in the various subjects of study taught in the public school.
Lastly, parents should keep organized records of their homeschool instruction as this is crucial in a meeting such as described above.