A review of the past school year clearly reveals that God has continued to protect home schoolers throughout the United States and Canada. During the 1992-93 school year, over 4,000 negative contacts were handled by the Home School Legal Defense Association’s legal staff on behalf of our members. These contacts involved various degrees of harassment, ranging from attempts to impose illegal, excessive restrictions to actual or threatened prosecution.
In addition, HSLDA gave advice and counsel to another 5,000 families who called our office. This year our attorneys traveled to speak to home school conferences in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and throughout Canada.
Cases in Court
This year several HSLDA member families celebrated tremendous successes in court. The biggest victory came when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of home schoolers in the DeJonge/Bennett cases. In People v. DeJonge, the court struck down the state’s teacher certification requirement for families home schooling as a result of religious conviction. Not only does this landmark decision establish that teacher certification is not essential for children to be educated, but it helps restore the proper protection for religious freedom, enabling religious beliefs to win over state regulations. In People v. Bennett, the court upheld the due process rights of home schoolers.
The North Dakota Supreme Court in Birst v. Sanstead ruled in favor of the Birst family’s challenge to the department of public instruction’s claim that home schools could only operate under the home school law, not under the private school law. HSLDA has successfully used the court’s ruling in this case to encourage other states to recognize the legitimacy of home schools operating as private schools.
The Conklin family chose to challenge North Dakota’s mental aptitude testing requirement for home school students. HSLDA voluntarily dismissed the case after the state agreed to no longer require mental aptitude testing of home schoolers.
In South Dakota, HSLDA filed Davis v. Newell School District, a federal civil rights suit which attacked the state statutes’ unconstitutional home visit requirement. This case ultimately helped spur a legislative solution-an amendment to the compulsory attendance statute that repealed the home visit requirement-and HSLDA withdrew the suit.
In Virginia, HSLDA successfully appealed a school board’s denial of a religious exemption. The Cumberland County Circuit Court ruled that the school board had no right to determine whether a family’s religious beliefs were right or wrong and that they had abused their discretion in denying the family a religious exemption.
Meanwhile, adverse decisions in the Floyd case (Tennessee) and the Pustell case (Massachusetts) are presently being appealed by HSLDA. The Leeper case is currently awaiting a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court.
Contacts, Contacts, Contacts
The families in the 34 states with specific home school legislation were not exempt from trouble created by school districts misapplying the law. While harassing all types of home school families, school officials especially targeted new home schoolers, single parents, and families with handicapped children. Some school districts threatened HSLDA members with termination of their right to home school if the families did not submit to the school district’s arbitrary notice of intent deadlines, testing or evaluation procedures, and curriculum requirements, and in some instances, teacher qualification requirements. None of these requirements were based in the law.
In states where home schools either have to be approved by the school districts or operate as private schools, the challenges were more intense. Many HSLDA families were faced with illegal home visits by school officials, demands for curriculum approval, and excessive qualification requirements. The vagueness of the law in many of these states contributes to the arbitrary treatment of home schoolers. Repeatedly, HSLDA counseled members regarding appropriate action, and when necessary, intervened on their behalf.
HSLDA attorneys also devoted a great deal of time to combating the ever-growing powers of child welfare officials. God allowed us to stop hundreds of attempts to enter the homes of home schoolers or to interrogate their children.
By God’s grace, all of these legal contacts were resolved by the HSLDA legal staff. The only families still being challenged are in court at various levels of appeal. These remaining cases are reported on the following pages.
On the Legislative Front
HSLDA lawyers also contributed to the legislative efforts of home school leaders in nearly every state. HSLDA’s involvement was varied, responding to requests for expert witnesses to testifying or drafting amendments to proposed bills. This year HSLDA attorneys testified before state legislatures in New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia, and also met with the State Superintendent in Texas, the State Department of Education officials in Virginia, and the state superintendent and governor’s staff in Wisconsin.
The results of legislative changes were remarkable. In Arizona, the testing requirement for parents was repealed and replaced with a requirement for only a high school diploma or GED. In New Hampshire, a bill to repeal the home school law was handily defeated by the home schoolers. In New Mexico, the bachelor’s degree requirement for families to home school was repealed and replaced with a requirement for only a high school diploma or GED. In Oklahoma, a bill which would have required home schoolers to register was miraculously defeated when the Chairman of the Education committee broke a tie vote in favor of the home schoolers. In South Dakota, the home visit requirement was repealed. In Virginia, legislation lowering the cut-off score for home schoolers from the 40th percentile to the 23rd percentile was successful. Virginia home schoolers also stopped a mandatory kindergarten bill, and a similar provision was defeated by home schoolers in the state of Pennsylvania.
Home School Legal Defense Association staff members consider it a true privilege to be able to contribute to the protection and promotion of home schooling. However, it is God and God alone who deserves the glory for the progress of this past school year because it is His hand that has protected the home schooling community. As the 1993-94 school year begins, please pray for God’s continued blessing and protection.