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11/14/2005 8:52:49 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
California--There's No Place Like Home

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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California--There's No Place Like Home


Dear HSLDA members and friends:


Much concern has been expressed by conservative groups in California,
and across the nation, over a recent decision by the U.S. Court of
Appeals, Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. In the case of "Fields v.
Palmdale School District," Circuit Judge Reinhardt, writing for the
court, argued against the fundamental constitutional right of parents
to direct the upbringing and the education of their children.

The statement in the court's opinion that has caused the most reaction
is as follows: "[We] hold that there is no fundamental right of
parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual
matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct
the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it."

We believe this statement, if considered in isolation, violates
precedents enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the rights
of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
Constitutional rights should certainly encompass the right of parents
to determine what kind of information is communicated to their
children on the subject of sex.

However, to properly evaluate the judge's statement, it must be
considered within the context of the actual case that was before the
court. The plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit were parents of children
enrolled in the Palmdale School District in southern California. Their
children were in the first, third and fifth grades. The children were
administered a survey for the purposes of identifying "psychological
barriers to learning." The survey was composed of 79 questions, some
of which involved sexual topics and would be considered abusive by
most parents if asked by a non-parent. Several of the questions in the
survey exposed the children to highly objectionable ideas and
behaviors that had never before occurred to them. The announced
purpose of the survey was to establish a community baseline measure of
children's exposure to early trauma (for example, violence). It turns
out that the real trauma was caused by the questions themselves. The
parents sued to recover damages for the trauma experienced by their
children and the parents lost.

A complicating factor in the case is that the students who
participated in this survey did so after their parents signed a letter
of permission. However, according to the letter informing the parents
of the survey and seeking their consent, it did not explicitly state
that some questions would involve sexual topics. The school district
attorney even indicated that the school district was not aware of the
full extent of the sexual nature of the questions. Consequently,
parents based their decision about their child's involvement on the
following statement from the school district: "I understand answering
questions may make my child feel uncomfortable. If this occurs, then
[name] the research study coordinator, will assist us in locating a
therapist for further psychological help if necessary."

Unfortunately, in the context of a public school setting, there are
many court decisions that support Judge Reinhardt's opinion. The
court explained that the legitimate function of public school exceeds
simply teaching academic courses to students. Judge Reinhardt
concluded that the U.S Supreme Court has said: "Education serves
higher civic and social functions, including the rearing of children
into healthy, productive and responsible adults and the cultivation of
talented and qualified leaders of diverse backgrounds." Grutter v.
Bolinger, 539 US 306 (2003).

Citing precedent from other courts, the Ninth Circuit Court argued
that parents of public school students do not have a fundamental right
to object to a public school uniform policy; a community service
requirement for high school students; exemption of their children from
certain reading programs the parents find objectionable; or from an
assembly program that includes sexually explicit topics.

At this point, some people may be tempted to conclude the following,
"My children are not enrolled in a public school. I'm teaching them at
home. How does this decision affect me?" Unfortunately, this decision
will eventually have an effect on private schools, including
homeschools. It shows a clear shift from trusting parents to raise
their children to having the state take more responsibility. State
involvement leads to a reduction in parental freedoms. Although the
court clearly recognizes the right of parents to choose private
education over public education, the ruling sets the stage for
possible further regulation of private and homeschools, including the
mandating of course content. Determining curriculum is currently
considered to be a private school and/or parental prerogative, but it
may not always be this way.

There is little doubt that Judge Reinhardt's alarming statement
usurping the right of parents to control information being provided to
their children will be used by those that assert that homeschools and
private schools have too much autonomy. They will argue that children
are being limited to only the information provided by their parents
and that this is not in the best interest of society. Opponents often
say that homeschooled children are not being exposed to diverse
beliefs and opinions. Usually opponents target Christian parents for
"indoctrinating" their children with a Biblical worldview.

Professor Robert Reich, of the Department of Political Science at
Stanford University, in a report entitled, "Testing the boundaries of
parental authority over education: the case of homeschooling,"
concluded that while the state should not ban homeschooling, it must
nevertheless regulate its practice with vigilance. Professor Reich
asserts that children, as a matter of justice, should be able to
choose their own values, beliefs, pursue an occupation, and endorse
traditions that are different from those of their parents. Since the
parents may be opposed to both alternative views and decisions made by
their children, the state must ensure that the child has the
opportunity to make these choices. Reich's proposed manner of
regulation is to require periodic assessments that would measure
homeschoolers' success in examining and reflecting upon diverse
worldviews. The only fair way to assess success in learning different
worldviews is to require the student to be taught these diverse
worldviews.

How could this infringement take place? As you know, California
parents homeschool through the private school exemption. Currently, we
have much autonomy regarding the content of education since we are
required only to teach the courses of study that are commonly taught
in public schools. Legislation could be introduced to amend the
required courses of study to ensure that certain content is included.
Material that is objectionable to parents, including the teaching of
evolution for science, sex education for health, and homosexuality as
an alternate lifestyle for social studies, will almost certainly be
included since this type of information is found in the public school
curriculum.

If the Legislature attempts to make this type of change, the services
of Jim Davis and Roy Hanson, through Family Protection Ministries in
Sacramento, partnering with HSLDA, will be critical. Our members, and
homeschoolers throughout the state of California, will be the primary
defense to maintain parental rights and the freedom to homeschool.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you continue your support
of Family Protection Ministries (and if you haven't ever supported,
start now) and continue your partnership with us so a defense can be
mustered.

Finally, avoid any public-school-at-home program. These are commonly
called charter schools or virtual charter schools, and are making
great headway into the homeschool community. This Ninth Circuit Court
case applies to any family enrolled in a public school program. The
control of that child's education is now subject to the control of the
charter school administration. The child schooled at home in a
publicly-funded program can be subject to the same social engineering
that is taking place in public schools all across the country,
including addressing the so-called psychological health of the child.

The moral of the story is that "There is no place like home" when it
comes to education. You've made the best choice for your family and
your children. Society is going in a different direction. Not only
must we continue to teach our children at home privately, but we must
be prepared to meet the challenges to this choice in the future. It is
foolhardy to assume that we will always be left alone to freely
educate our children.

The case of "Fields v. Palmdale School District" should reinforce your
wise decision to make your home the place where God's love in you and
your children's life may rule.


Sincerely,

J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President


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-> How long are you in for?

Some families are facing what seems like a lifelong commitment to
homeschooling, with children at both ends of the spectrum-some
graduating and some just reaching school age. If you're going to
be "in" for a while, consider a lifetime membership with HSLDA.
It's a good deal for families with more than 10 years of
homeschooling ahead.

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1936

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