Texas Home Schoolers Welcome Victory At Last!
On November 27, 1991, the Court of Appeals of Texas issued a landmark decision in Texas Education Agency, et al v. Leeper, et al (No. 2-87-216-CV), protecting the rights of parents to home school their children throughout the state. This decision completely affirms a lower court decision which recognized that home schools can legally operate as private schools in Texas if they have a written curriculum and teach reading, writing, spelling, math, and good citizenship. No other requirements apply to home schools.
The Leeper case was initiated in March 1985, after 150 innocent home school parents were prosecuted as a direct result of school districts relying on a 1981 Texas Education Agency policy, which stated, “educating a child at home is not the same as private school instruction and therefore, not an acceptable substitute.” This policy, in effect, outlawed home schooling in Texas.
The Home School Legal Defense Association joined with several Texas home school families and curriculum providers to bring this class action civil rights suit. They sued all the 1060 school districts in the state and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for violating the home schoolers’ civil rights. HSLDA and the other home school plaintiffs retained a private, Christian attorney from Ft. Worth to file suit and handle the case. (This Texas attorney asked that he simply be identified as an HSLDA attorney so that the glory will go to God alone!) In April of 1987, the Tarrant County District Court ruled in favor of the home schoolers, and the state and school districts appealed.
The Court of Appeals decision in Leeper finally affirmed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the Texas Education Agency “deprived the home school parents of equal protection under the law” since their private schools in the home were unfairly discriminated against “on the sole basis of location in the home” rather than outside the home. The Court emphasized, “that initiation of prosecution of plaintiff parents violates the parents’ equal protection rights by establishing an unreasonable and arbitrary classification of parents which is not rationally related to any state interest.” The Court found no evidence that the home schoolers were not educating their children. The Court added that home schooling has historically been a legitimate form of education in Texas.
The Court also held that the 1060 public school districts were not immune from the home schoolers’ civil rights action and that they were each liable for implementing the TEA’s “unconstitutional policy.” Furthermore, the Court of Appeals in Leeper upheld the lower court’s permanent injunction which prohibits “all school officers from initiating prosecutions” under the compulsory attendance law or juvenile code against home-schooling parents.
Christopher Klicka, senior counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association, hails the Leeper decision as “a tremendous declaration of the parents’ right to educate their own children free from restrictive state intervention. We will be able to use this precedent to protect home schoolers throughout Texas and the United States.”
Attorney Klicka believes this case “ties the hands of school officials who arbitrarily try to shut down legitimate home schools, and it demonstrates that home schooling is an alternative educational choice that really works.”