Don't Mess With Texas Homeschoolers
DALLAS, Texas -- Increasingly, homeschoolers have come under attack by Big Education. Most recently, in Connecticut. Governor Dannel Malloy created an advisory commission that preliminarily sought to mandate involuntary mental health screenings for homeschoolers, citing the tragic 2012 Newtown shooter Adam Lanza as a reason for tighter control.
However, Breitbart News called this a "knee-jerk reaction," pointing out that there was no evidence to support any connection between home education and public school violence. Lanza, who was responsible for the senseless slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had spent some time homeschooled, although the majority of his education was in public school Breitbart News reported
While national advocacy organization Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) intended to "vigorously oppose," the news of such an egregious government overstep in Connecticut did not sit well in Texas.
The Lone Star state is one of the most "favorable for home educators in the United States, and here people are free to determine the course of their children's education," according to the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), the state's non-profit home school support organization. Their motto is "Keeping Texas Families Free."
Breitbart Texas spoke to Tim Lambert, THSC President, who said that it is a "total disregard for the fundamental constitutional right of parents to direct the care, control and upbringing of their children is what we see happening in Connecticut."
He added, "In Texas, we guard our freedom to home school with great determination because we experienced the heavy hand of government oppression against home schooling parents in the 1980's."
Texans fought hard for their homeschooling freedoms over the years. Lambert explained, "The Texas Attorney General publicly said, at that time, that he did not believe parents were qualified to raise their children much less teach them at home."
In the short video, Legacy of Freedom, THSC tells the Texas homeschooling story, tracing back to a far more hostile environment where the state attempted to either outlaw or regulate home education. First, in 1981, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) banned home schooling and treated it as a criminal act. The TEA is the administrative unit for primary and secondary public education headed up under the Commissioner of Education.
In 1985, Texas home educators sued every school district in what became known as the Leeper case in which homeschooling was examined and ultimately determined to be equivalent to private schools and thus, out of the jurisdiction of public compulsory education.
A year later, the state held hearings to regulate homeschooling but in April 1987, Judge Charles Murray from the North Texas Tarrant County District Court ruled on the Leeper case that home schools were private schools.
This was an important victory but the state appealed this decision three times -- at the local court, Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court levels. Each time the decisions were in favor of the homeschoolers. Following the Texas Supreme Court's 1994 unanimous 9-0 pro-homeschool decision, there were no more appeals from the state.
That same year, House Resolution 6 was filed in the US House of Representatives to ban homeschooling nationwide. THSC "led the Texas response" as part of a national push that resulted in generating one million phone calls that literally shut down the Capitol switchboard," according to Legacy of Freedom.
THSC has fought hard for other parental rights outside of homeschooling per se --- like Driver's Ed. Before 1995 and THSC's involvement, state law dictated that only schools and TEA certified instructors could provide formal driver training.
Today, Texas ranks among the best states to home school, leading the nation in the number of families who home school. THSC Association estimates that more than 120,000 families in the state home educate, translating into approximately 300,000 children.
However, in Connecticut, it seems state officials have been trying to chip away at homeschooling for years, including through the Connecticut Department of Education which distributed a misleading memo about the state's education law, the New York Post reported.
A memo called "Suggested Procedures" went out to school districts and families curious about homeschooling with action items that "must be
completed by parents -- including filing a notice of intent with the local superintendent and providing information about the curriculum being used."
Yet, according to Connecticut attorney and home school law expert Deborah Stevenson these procedures are guidelines and not law, according to the Post article.
"She pointed out that superintendents read this letter and "think they can use it to coerce families into registering with the school district," also according to the Post.
Stevenson added, "They do this intentionally. It's not a mistake."
HSLDA attorney Darren Jones told the Post that Connecticut law does not require parents to
file a notice of intent with their local district. Nor do they have to share their curriculum. In fact, all they have so show is that their child is getting
"equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools; and only if asked to do so in a court proceeding. So long as they are providing equivalent instruction, they aren't required to notify anyone."
Based on the Post report, seems that Connecticut has been trying to find ways to clamp down on home education for some time Meanwhile, back in Texas, don't mess with the homeschoolers.
"We pray for our friends there and we stand ready to push back hard if something like that is raised as a possibility in Texas, Lambert commented.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.