More “loyalty to the state” in California schools

A California appeals court ruling last week:

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that California law requires parents to send their children to full-time public or private schools or have them taught by credentialed tutors at home.

Some homeschoolers are affiliated with private or charter schools, like the Longs, but others fly under the radar completely. Many homeschooling families avoid truancy laws by registering with the state as a private school and then enroll only their own children.

Yet the appeals court said state law has been clear since at least 1953, when another appellate court rejected a challenge by homeschooling parents to California’s compulsory education statutes. Those statutes require children ages 6 to 18 to attend a full-time day school, either public or private, or to be instructed by a tutor who holds a state credential for the child’s grade level.

“California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. “Parents have a legal duty to see to their children’s schooling under the provisions of these laws.”

Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.

“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare,” the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue.

The LA Times had three articles in the past two days that make me wonder whether some California schools are actually training children in “good citizenship, patriotism, and loyalty to the state and the nation,” or having the opposite effect. First:

Every morning, Shawn Spitzer sent her 13-year-old daughter off to school with a lunch box of snacks and $5 to buy a hot meal.

Every afternoon, Spitzer noticed that her daughter, who has severe autism and cannot speak, would head straight for the refrigerator when she came home.

Spitzer wondered if it was a growth spurt. Maybe the cafeteria food was bad. But the reason for her daughter’s hunger, authorities learned, was more disturbing: The special education assistant was stealing her lunch money.

Over the course of three days, using a hidden camera, police twice caught Kristen Rene Santoyo, 37, lifting the $5 from the girl’s lunch box at Camarillo High School.

And also:

A former teacher’s aide at a Cypress school who allegedly twisted the arm of an autistic student behind his back, lifting him to his feet, was behind bars today.

Ernesto Maldonado, 29, of Santa Ana was arrested at his home Wednesday on suspicion of child abuse in connection with the alleged Nov. 29 assault at Alton School, 5400 Myra Ave., Cypress police Sgt. Tom Bruce said.

And finally:

In 2005, 28% of students age 12 to 18 reported being bullied in the previous six months — double the figure from four years earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The true figure is almost certainly higher; experts believe underreporting is rampant.

The consequences can be devastating, and even deadly, as in the slaying of 15-year-old Lawrence King at an Oxnard middle school. The teenager was shot in the head Feb. 12 in a classroom after being harassed by some classmates when he disclosed that he was gay.

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3 responses to “More “loyalty to the state” in California schools

  1. There is absolutely no threat to homeschoolers from the proceedings there. One family with a long and documented history of runs ins with child welfare in CA was homeschooling without properly registering their home as a private school in CA. They got caught. They tried to hide behind homeschool laws that don’t exist and the judge called them on it. So now they are crying religious persecution.

    This is a child welfare issue, not a homeschooling issue. More details are available at http://docsdomain.net/blog/?p=663

  2. COD may be right that the many homeshcoolers who slip through the loophole by registering themselves as a private school MIGHT not get hauled into court in the future, but the language in the decision is pretty clear cut, and pretty scary. Again:

    “California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28.

    “A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare,” the judge wrote, quoting from a 1961 case on a similar issue.

  3. Yeah, I went and read the judge’s decision after COD left that comment. It’s probably true that the letter of the law is only enforced when authorities have some other reason to think that the children are in some kind of danger or being abused somehow. So most homeschooling parents can just register as a “private school” and not worry about being prosecuted or having their children forced into a regular school.

    Schwarzenegger is calling for the decision to be overturned, although it seems like it would be better for him and the legislature to change the law instead. It seems ridiculous to have a system where a law is on the books, but everyone is expected to get around it using a “private school” loophole. Why not just add a homeschooling provision instead, while ensuring that the state still has a mechanism for dealing with abusive parents?

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