After an almost ten-year battle for home school freedom for Texas families, June 9, 1994, marked the important date that the Texas Supreme Court finally rendered its decision in the Leeper v. Arlington ISD case. I distinctly remember a dramatic sense of relief. The Texas Attorney General had proclaimed publicly that he did not believe parents were qualified to teach their own children. The stakes seemed high for Texas parents.
Many home schoolers in Texas today have no idea what it was like to home school in the 1980s. The fear and anxiety that many faced because they believed they were called by God to train and teach their children at home was very real, and resulted in over 100 families across the state being prosecuted. Many of them lost their cases, and some left the state in order to be able to continue to home school. The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) traveled the state meeting Texas families that supported Shelby Sharpe, the lead attorney in the Leeper case, and the fight for home school freedom.
The January before the Leeper decision, I listened in the courtroom to the oral arguments, along with dozens of home schoolers and their children. We were on a “political science field trip.” Later that day we joined thousands of home schoolers on the south steps of the Texas Capitol to support the fundamental constitutional right of parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children, which we believed included the right to teach our children at home.
The unanimous decision of the court that day in June was the culmination of not only a long legal battle, but a public relations battle as well. The home school community found itself divided with significant controversy about the decision to sue the state of Texas. Some argued that suing the state was a risk that would not only bring attention to home schoolers, but could also result in a loss of our freedom through a bad court decision. One group went so far as to file a motion in court opposing the case.
Today all of that is forgotten, and we look back at the decision and willingness of Gary and Cheryl Leeper to sue the state of Texas for filing truancy charges against their family simply because they courageously chose to teach their children at home. The Leeper family, along with the other members of the class action suit, put themselves in the public eye and made themselves a potential target to end the uncertainty and legal harassment of parents all over Texas.
Texas prides itself in leading the charge for freedom, and this court ruling testified to the tenacious, courageous, and principled leadership of Texas. The Leeper decision impacted not only Texas but states across the country as one of the first published court decisions to support home schooling, and therefore contributed to the battle for home school freedoms in other states.
Thank you Governor Abbott for proclaiming June 9 as Leeper Day. Thank you to the Leeper family and the other members of the suit, for putting yourselves and your families on the line for all of us. Thank you Shelby Sharpe for fighting the legal battle all the way to the Texas Supreme Court to secure our freedom to home school.
Since 1986, THSC has fought to Keep Texas Families Free. THSC remembers the fight for the Leeper decision and we understand the cost and value of maintaining freedom. You can rest assured; THSC will stand by members to continue protecting the rights of home school families. Is your home school family supporting the fight? Join or support THSC today!