The ruling, when it was released several days ago, sent ripples of shock through the homeschooling community.
WND has reported on the order handed down to Phillip and Mary Long over the education being provided to two of their eight children.
The decision from the 2nd Appellate Court in Los Angeles granted a special petition brought by lawyers appointed to represent the two youngest children after the family's homeschooling was brought to the attention of child advocates. The lawyers appointed by the state were unhappy with a lower court's ruling that allowed the family to continue homeschooling, and specifically challenged that on appeal.
Roy Hanson, chief of the Private and Home Educators of California, said the circumstances of the Long family left the court with the option of handling such a ruling for their particular circumstances in a juvenile court setting.
"Normally in a dependency court action, they simply make a ruling that will affect that family. It accomplishes the same thing, meaning they would force [the family] to place their minor children into school," he said.
Such rulings on a variety of issues always are "done in the best interests of the child" and are not unusual, he said.
But in this case, the court said went much further, essentially concluding that the state provided no circumstance that allowed parents to school their own children at home. "We find no reason to strike down the Legislature's evaluation of what constitutes an adequate education scheme sufficient to promote the 'general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence.' We agree … 'the educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education,'" the ruling said.
Specifically, the appeals court said, the trial court had found that "keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children's lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents' 'cloistered' setting."
Further, the appeals ruling said, California law requires "persons between the ages of six and 18" to be in school, "the public full-time day school," with exemptions allowed only for those in a "private full-time day school" or those "instructed by a tutor who holds a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught."
Such a holding, if unchanged, could ultimately be used against the tens of thousands who currently are homeschooling in California by fulfilling the state's requirements to establish a private school in a home, and enrolling the family's children in that school, observers said.
For homeschoolers in California, Hanson said, "there may be everywhere from concern to panic, just based on not knowing what the [ultimate] results will be."
He said his group has worked to defeat similar arguments in the past, and because of those previous results, he wondered whether the court or the children's lawyers were pursuing some sort of "agenda" with the case.
"They either were trying to put on an agenda, or they were so frustrated they felt this was their only option," he said. But in either case, the decision is "not very sound."
The Home School Legal Defense Association, the world's premiere international advocacy organization for homeschoolers, emphasized that the ruling made no changes in California law regarding homeschooling at this time.