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In re Rachel L. Case Summary

By Susan K. Stewart

The headlines were reading “Homeschooling Outlawed in California.” Within hours, homeschoolers were asking, “What do I do now?” All this the result of a ruling by the California Second Court of Appeal that said a family in Southern California could not homeschool unless a parent was a credentialed tutor.

This unexpected ruling was the outgrowth of an unrelated juvenile court matter, in which attorneys for the children requested that the children be placed in a public or private school where mandatory child abuse reporters could monitor them.

When the juvenile court did not prohibit the parents from teaching their children at home, the children’s attorneys went to the California Court of Appeal.  The Court went further than the case at hand and ruled that the state law does not provide the option to homeschool.

Immediately five organizations went into action: Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California, California Homeschool Network (CHN), Homeschoolers of California (HSC), Family Protection Ministries (FPM), and Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Working together these organizations monitored the situation, met with legislators to try to prevent new legislation affecting homeschoolers, and issued joint statements about the court case to keep homeschoolers informed about what was happening.

Governor Arnold Schwzenaggar and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell both issued statements supporting homeschooling parents in California. “This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.” the Governor stated. And, O’Connell said, “Parents still have the right to home school in our state."

Drawing attention from sources such as Focus on the Family, Fox News, Michelle Milken, and Sean Hannity, this case became a national conversation. Even members of Congress weighed in.

“The California ruling clearly fails to recognize the research and statistical evidence that prove that not only do homeschooled kids receive a good education, but also that they perform as well as or better than their peers when compared socially and emotionally.” wrote Representative Tom Feeney of Florida.

On March 25, the court granted a re-hearing in the case, In Re Rachel L. In preparation for the rehearing, many organizations filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs. Among the many briefs was one submitted by CHEA, CHN, and HSC, as well as one submitted by HSLDA, FPM, and Focus on the Family.

On June 23, the court re-heard the case. Arguments were presented by various parties and interested groups, including Michael Farris of HSLDA and Kristin Linsley Myles representing CHEA, CHN, and HSC.

On July 11, as homeschoolers gathered at CHEA’s Annual Convention in Long Beach and prayed over the case, the juvenile court terminated jurisdiction over the L family, resolving the original juvenile matter that led to the infamous Court of Appeal ruling.

The court of appeal ruled on August 6 that "California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education." This ruling specifically overruled the Turner (1953) and Shinn (1961) cases, which gave private homeschooling families problems in the past.

Some began to ask whether homeschoolers want to pursue homeschool legislation. All five of the major organizations serving California homeschoolers oppose this idea at this time. Legislation would be detrimental to private independent homeschooling in California because it is very unlikely to allow the amount of freedom California homeschoolers currently enjoy. As Mike Smith has said, “We don’t want legislation. We like it the way it is.”

A Veteran Looks at In re: Rachel L.

Read the case history


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