Sunday, March 09, 2008

VaHomeschoolers Reports on Implications of California Court Case

From an announcement:

VaHomeschoolers Reports on Implications of California Court Case

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers
www.VaHomeschoolers.org
Your Resource. Your Voice. Your Association.

Thoughts on JONATHAN L. and MARY GRACE L. v. SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, February 28, 2008

by Celeste Land,
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers,
Government Affairs

Homeschool e-lists are talking about a recent court case in California which declares homeschooling to not be a legal option in that state: Since "As goes California, so goes the rest of the country,” some parents are wondering whether this case could have implications for Virginia homeschoolers as well.

While this case is clearly a challenge to homeschooling freedoms in California, The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers does not believe it will affect homeschoolers in Virginia at this time.

The California court case states that homeschooling parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children, something which other courts have declared in the past. However, stating that parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool is not the same thing as saying that homeschooling is “unconstitutional” or that existing homeschooling laws should be overturned.

Parents have a clearly defined legal right to homeschool their children under Virginia law. Homeschooling has been legal in Virginia since 1984, with the passing of the home instruction statute (Section 22.1-254.1). This section of code clearly specifies that “home instruction of children by their parents is an acceptable alternative form of education under the policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” This legal right could only be taken away if the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation to remove that language from the Code of Virginia, and if the Governor then signed the legislation into law. The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers closely monitors legislation every year to ensure that this does not happen.

In contrast, there is no legal definition of “homeschooling” in California law, nor is there anything resembling a home instruction statute. Many families in California educate their children at home either by filing paperwork with the state saying that they are either operating a private
school, or by reporting that their children are enrolled in someone else’s private school. Many of these “private schools” reportedly have five students or less, which has led to questions about their legal status in the past.

Private school homeschools have never been a legal option in Virginia. Virginia’s compulsory attendance code (Section 22.1-254) clearly states that “Instruction in the home of a child or children by the parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of such child or children shall not be classified or defined as a private, denominational or parochial school.”

Jonathan and Mary Grace L’s case is in some respects reminiscent of Griggs v. Commonwealth, a 1982 case involving Virginia parents who were brought to court for educating their children at home when neither parent had a teacher’s license. The Griggs argued that they were running a private school and thus were in compliance with the compulsory attendance code. The courts disagreed. While the parents lost the case, the court decision was beneficial in the long run, in that it caused legislators to create Virginia’s home instruction statute and legalize homeschooling in our state.

One lesson that can be taken from the situation in California is that it is important to have active state homeschool organizations who know the law and the political climate. The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is committed to protecting homeschooling freedoms in Virginia. Your membership dues and tax deductible contributions support our lobbying and advocacy efforts, and are much appreciated. Your membership also includes a subscription to the VaHomeschoolers Newsletter, which features in-depth articles and stories about legal and policy issues which affect homeschooling families in Virginia.

http://www.vahomeschoolers.org/join/

We wish the homeschoolers and homeschool organizations in California well as they work together as needed with the courts, legislators, and policymakers to remediate this situation to everyone’s satisfaction.

References:

JONATHAN L. and MARY GRACE L. v. SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES: http://www.court
info.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B192878.PDF
.

Virginia Home Education Statute, Section 22.1-254.1:
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+22.1-254.1

Virginia Compulsory Attendance Code, Section 22.1-254:
http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+22.1-254

Griggs v. Commonwealth:
http://www.vahomeschoolers.org/pdf/griggs.pdf

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers
www.VaHomeschoolers.org
Your Resource. Your Voice. Your Association.

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Please feel free to forward this message to other homeschoolers and homeschool groups or email lists who might find this information useful. If this message was forwarded to you, be sure to join the VaHomeschoolers Announce List to receive future updates directly.

Join online: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VaHomeschoolersAnnounce
Or via email: VaHomeschoolersAnnounce-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers
www.vahomeschoolers.org
info@vahomeschoolers.org

PO Box 5131
Charlottesville, VA 22905
866-513-6173


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