Home School Court Report
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a contrario sensu

What’s in a Name?
My nine-year-old daughter Brittany’s English assignment was to read the sentence and name the underlined part. She was confused, so I explained twice that “naming it” meant to tell whether the part of the sentence underlined was the subject or the predicate. She still didn’t understand and, in great frustration, said, “Name it? Name it? I don’t get it! Fine, then, I’ll name it Bob!”

Twyla J. Stewart
Napa, California

Hot or Sweaty?
Part of our home school spelling program involves oral dictation. It seems that the spelling books have used the same sentences for years, but that sometimes the words have taken on new meanings. I recently dictated the sentence “The man is hot.” My daughter immediately waved her hand and asked, “Mom, do you mean that he is really cute or is he just sweaty?”

Julie Wentworth
Chula Vista, California

It is Legal!

Home educators in San Bernardino County recently received an information packet with their private school affidavit from the Office of the County Superintendent of Schools. It said that home schooling, “a situation where non-credentialed parents teach their own children at home, is not authorized in California.” This statement is based on a letter circulated by the state department of education, which asserts that home education can only be legally accomplished by a certified teacher or a public school independent study program.

The department’s opinion rests upon two cases decided against home schooling families over 30 years ago. Home School Legal Defense Association continues to hold that home education in California is legal via the private school exemption, either through the small private school in the home or through a private school independent study program.

HSLDA has consistently explained the fallacy of the department’s reliance on these two cases. In re Shinn, 195 Cal. App. 2d 683 (1961), 16 Cal. Rptr. 165 (1961), actually supports our position—the appellate court ruled against the family because they were not in compliance with the private school requirements.

In the other case, People v. Turner, 121 Cal. App. 2d. Supp. 861, 263 P. 2d 685 (1953), the Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division used “reasonableness”—a lower standard than the “compelling state interest” test that would have to be applied to a home school case in California today.

Any district challenging a home schooler’s right to operate as a private school would have to prove that requiring certification is essential and the least restrictive means available to achieve the governmental interest in education (literacy and self-sufficiency). Since 49 other states have less restrictive qualifications, and students in public schools—where teacher certification is mandatory—test an average 30 percentile points lower than home schoolers, it is unlikely such a challenge would be successful in court.

San Bernardino County’s packet also claimed that the local school district approves or disapproves the operation of private schools within its boundaries. But there is no basis in the law for this assertion. Private school requirements are set out in California Education Code § 48222 and § 33190—school district personnel have the authority to verify the filing of the private school’s affidavit. That’s it. Once the filing has been verified, students enrolled in that private school are considered exempted from public school attendance.

The bottom line? No matter what you hear from various school districts, county departments of education or the state department of education, home education in California is legal pursuant to the private school exemption.