Last week the 8th Court of Appeals of Texas issued a ruling about home schooling in a civil case filed by a home school family against El Paso ISD. This was in response to truancy charges that had been filed against them as a result of their family members alleging the children were not being taught and had no curriculum. The school district eventually dropped the charges against the family but they proceeded to file a civil action against the district arguing that the state had no authority to regulate or oversee home schooling at all.
Interestingly, this family was a member of both THSC and HSLDA but refused to follow the recommendations of THSC. In such circumstances a home school family must simply provide district officials with a letter of assurance stating that they have a curriculum covering the basic educational goals and are pursuing it in a bona fide manner. In fact if the family had provided the letter we recommend, the school district would never have filed charges in the first place. You can read the court ruling.
The El Paso Appellate Court ruling said, “No parents have ever prevailed in any reported case on a theory that they have an absolute constitutional right to educate their children in the home, completely free of any state supervision, regulation, or requirements,” the ruling stated. “They do not have an ‘absolute constitutional right to home school,’” just as a parent does not have absolute authority over his children giving him the right to abuse them.
So does the state have the right to regulate home schooling? It is commonly accepted and understood across the nation that each state has the right to regulate education, both public and private. However, in the history of Texas up to this point, the legislature has refused to regulate private education, including home schooling, because of philosophical and political opposition. Even so, each school district does have the responsibility to enforce the compulsory attendance requirement, which says that school aged children must attend school.
Compulsory attendance enforcement became an issue for homeschoolers in 1994 when school districts began to require parents to submit their curriculum for the district’s approval. THSC took the issue straight to the Commissioner of Education, and in 1995 the Texas Education Agency (TEA) adopted our proposal and instituted a policy that school districts must accept a letter of assurance, as described above, and drop further action unless they had evidence that the assurance given was not accurate. Read the most recent letter from the TEA on the issue of compulsory attendance as it impacts home schoolers.
This El Paso court ruling reinforces the legal understanding that states have the right to regulate education but does not change a parent’s right to home school. THSC and Shelby Sharpe, lead attorney in the 1987 Leeper Case which clarified homeschooling as legal in Texas, agree after reviewing the case that it does not at all change the legal status of home schooling in Texas.Comments by El Paso school officials also make clear that they will continue to follow the direction of the TEA on this matter by stating, “In no way do we want to question the right of the parent to home school their children. It is only when we receive an allegation that this decision clearly underscores the responsibility of the school district and the attendance officer’s right to be able to verify that the student is being taught.”
This case is a reminder that we must be vigilant to keep our freedom to raise and teach our children at home. The home school community must be involved in the political process, educating elected officials who will oppose any effort by the legislature to regulate home schooling or private schools. THSC remains dedicated to keeping Texas families free. Please stay informed and stand with us.