On January 26, 1993, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of the Texas Education Agency, et al v. Leeper, et al. Forth Worth attorney Shelby Sharpe presented the case for the home schoolers.
The Leeper case was initiated in March 1985 after 150 innocent home school parents were prosecuted on the basis of 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.”
Home School Legal Defense Association joined with several Texas homeschool families and curriculum providers to bring a class action civil rights suit. They sued all 1,060 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 attorney Shelby Sharpe to file suit and handle the case.
In April 1987 the Tarrant County District Court ruled in favor of the home schoolers, and the state and school districts appealed. On November 27, 1991, the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision. The TEA appealed again, this time to the Texas Supreme Court.
The atmosphere in the Texas Supreme Court on January 26, was intense. Justices closely questioned both parties regarding the state’s authority to regulate home schools. Attorney Sharpe emphasized that the statutes do not give the TEA any authority to regulate home schools or private schools. The lawyers for the state, on the other hand, bemoaned the fact that the previous rulings severely restricted their authority to monitor home schools.
Outside the court room a pro-family rally was in progress. Over 5,000 people gathered at the south steps of the State Capitol in Austin to demonstrate their support of parental rights and family values. During the rally a show of hands revealed that a majority of the attendees were home school families.
The event was organized by the Texas Home School Coalition lead by Tim Lambert, Jeff Fisher, and Barry Brooks. Other sponsors included pro-family groups such as the American Family Association of Texas, HOPE for Texas, Concerned Women for America of Texas, the Texas Christian Coalition, Texans United for Life, Texas Eagle Forum, and many other organizations.
HSLDA attorney Christopher Klicka presented the rally’s keynote speech. Several pro-family legislators also spoke at the rally, as did representatives of the many sponsoring organizations. The crowd was encouraged to disperse after the rally and visit their representatives and senators in order to promote pro-family legislation.
Rev. Rick Gonzales closed the rally with prayer. He specifically prayed for the Texas Supreme Court justices hearing the Leeper case and committed their ruling to the Lord.
HSLDA does not expect the Texas Supreme Court to hand down a decision on Leeper for several months. It is impossible to predict an outcome, but we know that God is our defender and our protector. Please pray with us that He will direct the hearts of these judges to rule justly and that their decision will protect and strengthen parental rights.