HSLDA Media Release
December 16, 1998

Home schooling parents win seven-year court battle

For immediate release
December 16, 1998
Contact: Rich Jefferson
(540) 338-8663 or media@hslda.org

BOSTON—In a unanimous opinion released today in Boston, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts struck down the efforts of the Lynn Public School Committee to force home schoolers to submit to home inspections.

     Seven years ago, home schooling families in Lynn filed suit against the local public school committee because of the committee’s demand that home schoolers submit to warrantless searches of their homes, or risk prosecution for unauthorized home schooling. The families refused, and today, in Michael Brunelle, et al. v. Lynn Public Schools, all seven members of Massachusetts’ highest court agreed with the home schoolers.

     The court reiterated that it is “the basic constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children.” The Lynn Public School District does not have the right to demand entry to homes to observe and evaluate the parents’ home education program because, as the court said, “Home education proposals can be made subject only to essential and reasonable requirements. The home visits sought to be imposed on the education proposals of the plaintiffs are not essential.”

     Steven Pustell, a plaintiff in the case since the beginning, said they were "thrilled that what we thought was right all along proved to be right in the courts, as well. It's right, because it reaffirms the independence of home schooling parents to raise their children the way they should, without unwarranted government intrusion."

     According to the opinion, “While the State can insist that the children’s education be moved along in a way which can be objectively measured, it cannot apply institutional standards to this non-institutionalized setting. Furthermore, a requirement of home visits may call into play issues of family privacy in seeking to keep the home free of unwarranted intrusion.”

     The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) brought this suit on behalf of Michael and Virginia Brunelle and Stephen and Lois J. Pustell. HSLDA has more than 1,200 member families in Massachusetts. All of them will be affected to some degree by this ruling, which limits the power of local school officials.

     “This is a great victory for parents’ rights, for home schoolers across the country, and for the sanctity of our homes,” said Michael P. Farris, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts understood what was at stake and ruled in favor of freedom.”