The Second District Court of Appeal reversed itself and ruled Friday that parents in California had the right to homeschool their children even if they lacked teaching credentials under state law.
The 44-page page ruling declared that “California statutes permit homeschooling as a species of private school education.”
The court ruled Feb. 28 that the state’s compulsory education law mandated that parents send their children to a public or private school or have them taught by credentialed teachers at home, alarming thousands of parents who homeschool their children and creating an outcry among homeschooling advocates.
“I am pleased that the courts have clarified the right of California parents to homeschool their children,” state schools chief Jack O’Connell said in a statement Friday.
“I have respected the right of parents to make educational decisions they feel are in the best interest of their children. As head of California’s public school system, it would be my wish that all children attend public school, but I understand that a traditional public school environment may not be the right setting for each and every child. I would point out that within California’s education system there are many options available, from independent study to charter schools to non-classroom-based programs.”
O’Connell added that he recognized and understood the consternation that the earlier court ruling caused for many parents and associations involved in homeschooling.
“It is my hope that today’s ruling will allay many of those fears and resolve much of the confusion,” he said. “I also appreciate the caution and concern taken by the court to protect children when their safety becomes an issue.”
Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky said he was not surprised by the decision.
“I expected that’s what the courts would rule,” he said. “That’s all I can say at this point.”
Selawsky said there were a number of parents in Berkeley who homeschooled their children, and some of them signed up with Berkeley Unified and followed its curriculum.
Parents can homeschool children by enrolling them in a home study program through a local school district or charter school which then assigns a teacher to supervise the child.
Those with credentials can teach their children at home and those without teaching credentials can opt to start their own private school or enroll them in an already established private school.
Diane Flynn Keith, director of Bay Area-based Homefires, an online resource for parents who homeschool their kids, said she was delighted by the news.
Keith homeschooled both her sons for 16 years by starting her own private school and now advises parents about how to teach their children at home.
“I pulled my first son out of first grade to homeschool him because I thought it would be better for him than the school system,” she said. “I was not satisfied by how business was being conducted at his private school. And my younger son never went to school.”
Keith said she was delighted by the ruling.
“It leaves homeschooling exactly where it belongs—that is, legal in the state of California without any kind of restraint or interference form the government. I am a little disappointed the ruling said there should be some kind of legislation to define homeschooling. In doing that, regulations and restrictions might impede parents from teaching kids in the best possible way.”
Currently homeschooling is not defined in the California Education Code.
Keith said there were a number of homeschool groups near Berkeley, such as the Alameda Oakland Home Learners, the Baywood Learning Center in the Oakland Hills and Nurture Explorers of the East Bay.
Kristen Olmes with the Alameda Oakland Home Learners told the Planet she had homeschooled all three of her children for 10 years.
“My youngest son is 16 now and is going to join community college,” Olmes said.