|HSLDA News||March 14, 2001|
County Insists It Can Discriminate Against Home Schoolers
PURCELLVILLE, VAHome School Legal Defense Association filed its final brief yesterday in a case challenging a longstanding Calvert County policy that prohibits home schoolers from using the county's community centers for weekly geography club meetings. In two weeks, a federal court in Maryland will hear arguments in this case.
Home schoolers believe Calvert County's policy unconstitutionally discriminates against them, but the county says it does not just discriminate against home schoolers: it prohibits any private educator from using the community center for educational purposes.
The county has turned home schoolers away for years, but it was only two weeks ago that the Calvert County Board of Commissioners finally adopted an official written policy. The new policy bans all private educational activity while freely permitting any educational activity offered by the public schools, public libraries, or the County Division of Parks and Recreation.
The county claims that home school classes are not constitutionally protected activities because they do not involve "speech." "Though certainly they must 'speak' in order to teach geography, that 'speech' is merely incidental to the use Plaintiffs seek of the community centers," the county said in its brief (defendantís brief, p. 21).
As HSLDA notes in its reply brief, "Under Defendant's theory of the law, pornography is protected by the First Amendment, but geography is not."
Federal law prohibits the government from forcing a citizen to give up a constitutional right in order to gain a government benefit, and HSLDA argues that the county forces home schoolers to give up their right to educate if they wish to use the community center.
The county argues that (1) parents have no such constitutional right; and (2) home schoolers get no "benefit" from using the community centers. But the county offers no precedent to support either of these breathtakingly broad assertions.
The Federal District Court of Maryland will hear oral arguments at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 15 at the Federal Courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland. HSLDA General Counsel Michael P. Farris will argue the case.
The hearing is open to the public. Directions to the courthouse are available at http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/Division/Southern/Directions.htm.
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