Monday, August 11, 2008

Homeschooling OK - even in California

Reversed: Ruling that parents had no right to teach children

An appeals court in California has ruled that state law does permit homeschooling "as a species of private school education" but that statutory permission for parents to teach their own children could be "overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared dependent." The long-awaited case resolves many of the questions that had developed in homeschooling circles across the nation when the same court earlier found that parents had no such rights - statutorily or constitutionally - in California.

The ruling released this morning by the 2nd Appellate District in Los Angeles said the dispute came out of juvenile court proceedings in which court-appointed lawyers for two children demanded "an order that they be sent to private or public school, rather than educated at home by their mother."

The dependency court did not agree, "primarily based on its view that parents have an absolute constitutional right to homeschool their children," the appeals court said. The lawyers then advanced their case to the appeals level, which earlier granted the order. "We filed our original opinion on Feb. 28, 2008, granting the petition on the bases that: (1) California statutory law does not permit homeschooling; and (2) this prohibition does not violate the U.S. Constitution," the opinion said.

But the judges granted a request for rehearing "in order to provide an opportunity for further argument on the multiple complex issues involved in this case, including, but not limited to: (1) additional California statutes that might bear upon the issue; and (2) potentially applicable provisions of the California Constitution."

"This is a great victory for homeschool freedom," said Micheal Farris, who is chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and was one of the attorneys who had argued the case. "I have never seen such an impressive array of people and organizations coming to the defense of homeschooling." "Tens of thousands of California parents teaching over 166,000 homeschooled children are now breathing easier," he said. The opinion said the judges were not deciding whether homeschool should be allowed. "That job is for the Legislature," they said.

"Homeschooling was initially expressly permitted in California, when the compulsory education law was enacted in 1903," the court said. "In 1929, however, homeschool was amended out of the law, and children who were not educated in public or private schools could be taught privately only by a credentialed tutor."

However, since then, "subsequent developments in the law call this conclusion into question. Although the Legislature did not amend the statutory scheme so as to expressly permit homeschooling, more recent enactments demonstrate an apparent acceptance by the Legislature of the proposition that homeschooling is taking place in California, with homeschools allowed as private schools," the court ruling said. "Recent statutes indicate that the Legislature is aware that some parents in California homeschool their children by declaring their homes to be private schools. Moreover, several statutory enactments indicate a legislative approval of homeschooling, by exempting homeschools from requirements otherwise applicable to private schools."

The court said, "it is our view that the proper course of action is to interpret the earlier statutes in light of the later ones, and to recognize, as controlling, the Legislature's apparent acceptance of the proposition that homeschools are permissible in California when conducted as a private school." The opinion was authored by H. Walter Croskey, who had written the earlier opinion as well. He was joined by Joan Klein and Patti Kitching....

The court found multiple specific provisions in state law, including one that exempts "a parent or guardian working exclusively with his or her children" from fingerprinting requirements, that support the legitimacy of homeschooling. "We therefore conclude that home schools may constitute private schools," the opinion said.

In the specific case that prompted the questions, however, the court said state law permits a dependency court "to issue any reasonable orders for the care of a dependent child, including orders limiting the right of the parents to make educational decisions for the child." "Because the United States Supreme Court has held that parents possess a constitutional right to direct the education of their children, it is argued that any restriction on homeschooling is a violation of this constitutional right. We disagree. We conclude that an order requiring a dependent child to attend school outside the home in order to protect that child's safety is not an unconstitutional violation of the parents' right to direct the education of their children," the judges wrote. "Parents possess a constitutional liberty interest in directing the education of their children, but the right must yield to state interests in certain circumstances," the court said.

"In this case, the restriction on homeschooling would arise in a proceeding in which the children have already been found dependent due to abuse and neglect of a sibling," the court said. "Should a dependency court conclude, in the proper exercise of its discretion, that due to the history of abuse and neglect in the family, requiring a dependent child to have regular contact with mandated reporters is necessary to guarantee the child's safety, that order would satisfy strict scrutiny. There can be no dispute that the child's safety is a compelling governmental interest. Restricting homeschooling also appears to be narrowly tailored to achieving that goal. Without contact with mandated reporters, it may well be that the child's safety cannot be guaranteed without removing the child from the parents' custody. As such, the restriction on homeschooling would be the least restrictive means of achieving the goal of protecting the children; they would be permitted to continue to live at home with their parents, but their educators would change in order to provide them an extra layer of protection."

The judges' earlier opinion had ruled in the case the family failed to demonstrate "that mother has a teaching credential such that the children can be said to be receiving an education from a credentialed tutor," and that their involvement and supervision by Sunland Christian School's independent study programs was of no value. Nor did the family's religious beliefs matter to the court. Their "sincerely held religious beliefs" are "not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California's compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights." "Such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to homeschool his or her child," the court concluded.

The parents of the children talked with WND as the case developed about the situation over the education being provided to two of their eight children. The father said the family objects to public school because of the pro-homosexual, pro-bisexual, pro-transgender agenda of California's public schools, on which WND previously has reported. Just yesterday, California lawmakers decided to mandate a day of celebration and honor for Harvey Milk, the late San Francisco supervisor who was an activist for homosexuality. "We just don't want them teaching our children," he told WND. "They teach things that are totally contrary to what we believe. They put questions in our children's minds we don't feel they're ready for. "When they are much more mature, they can deal with these issues, alternative lifestyles, and such, or whether they came from primordial slop. At the present time it's my job to teach them the correct way of thinking," he said.

That was the court opinion, however, that was vacated by the appeals court prior to the newest ruling. And while today's decision was pending, a judge ended the juvenile court case that had established jurisdiction over the two children, opening the door for the demand for public school enrollment. The Home School Legal Defense Association said, "the juvenile court judge terminated jurisdiction over the two young L. children in a hearing held on July 10, 2008."

An estimated 166,000 children are being homeschooled in California, and their parents and advocates had expressed concern that the court's original ruling would leave parents who educate their children at home open to criminal truancy charges and civil charges for child neglect. A number of groups already have assembled in California under the Rescue Your Child slogan to encourage parents to withdraw their children from the state's public school system. The Discover Christian Schools website reports getting thousands of hits daily from parents and others seeking information about alternatives to California's public schools. WND reported leaders of the campaign called California Exodus say they hope to encourage parents of 600,000 children to withdraw them from the public districts.


British universities discriminating against private school students

Under big pressure from the government -- in the name of "equality"

Top universities are at the centre of a new social engineering row over plans to reject the new A* grade at A-level, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. An investigation by this newspaper has uncovered plans by several leading universities to ignore the new award because it will mean offering more places to independent school pupils.

The A* grade was introduced by ministers because universities were finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between top candidates in an era when 25 per cent of sixth formers gain an A grade at A-level. That proportion is expected to rise when exam results are released next week. Internal documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that admission committees at a number of Britain's universities are reluctant to sanction the new A* because they fear that state school pupils will not achieve the grade in sufficient numbers. Oxford University said it is "highly unlikely" that it will utilise the A* in offers until "there is a sense of the probable grade distribution".

Exeter and Bath Universities cite concerns that if the top grade is used in offers, it is likely to "disadvantage state schools" and "have a detrimental effect on widening participation efforts". Bristol has also expressed reservations about the A* because "some schools will be able to provide intensive preparation for their pupils and others will not" which could "exacerbate existing inequalities in education provision".

Critics last night accused the universities of trying to "fix" their admissions. "It is quite disgraceful if universities are saying 'we are not going to use this measure because we are afraid of what it is going to show'," said Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the centre for education and employment research at Buckingham University. "It is a terrible situation to get in to that higher education is avoiding the best qualified candidates because of where they were educated in a bid to comply with state school benchmarks set by its paymasters. "We will have good institutions, that should be recruiting the brightest talent, trying to fix admissions by ignoring a new grade."

Independent schools accused universities of being "lilly-livered" in their approach to the A*. "If there are reservations, they should be about potential differences between subjects and exam boards in the awarding of A*, not how different schools will perform," said Geoff Lucas, the secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. "This is woolly, lilly-livered thinking and not very honest. It shows the extent to which universities are cowered by Government pressure to widen participation. They should be giving credit to pupils who are best equipped to do well in the subject they are applying for."

Pupils starting out on their courses in September will have the chance of gaining the grade when they complete their exams in 2010. It was assumed that universities would use the grade when making offers in that year. However, internal documents reveal many institutions have yet to decide and could delay using it in case it increases the dominance of independent school pupils. Admission tutors' concerns are based on research which suggests that private school pupils will do better in A* than comprehensive pupils. Almost a quarter of those at fee-paying schools are expected to gain at least one A*, compared to just nine per cent at comprehensives, according to an analysis by exam board AQA.

Bath University admissions committee, which will consult with tutors on the issue in the autumn, fears that independent schools will gain too many of the top grades. "It was noted that the A* grade was intended to be awarded only to the highest scoring percentage of students, who would largely be in attendance at independent schools," said minutes of a meeting earlier this year. "There are some concerns that selection on the basis of A* might have adverse effects on widening participation."

Extracts from the minutes of Exeter's admissions working group said: "Other institutions are not including the A* in their offers as they feel that this is likely to disadvantage state schools." It added: "The admissions group felt they required a more informed debate on the issue and have asked for an indicator from the 1994 Group of universities (of which it is a member)."

Bristol University said despite reservations, it would accept the A* but take in to account the school context in which candidates have studied. Only one university said it had made the decision to include the A* in some offers. At University College London, departments such as history, English and economics, which currently demand three grade As, will be permitted to ask for a maximum of one A* from 2010.


The irrelevance of sociology

At one large public university, more than 600 undergraduates are currently classified as sociology majors. Students pick among five concentrations, and one - criminal justice - attracts more than half of the majors. Yet of the 30 faculty members, only 3 specialize in criminology. The department is "trying to bring the criminology majors in the fold of sociology" but finding that many of the students interested in criminal justice aren't necessarily interested, said a professor in the department. "They want hard core probation or forensics courses," not sociology, said the professor, who like many in this article asked that her institution not be identified.

The professor spoke on Sunday at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting, at a briefing by a special task force.the association created to study its relationship to criminology and criminal justice. Another professor described a department of seven faculty members where they "view it as a badge of honor to dismiss criminology" and to deal with increasing student interest by hiring adjuncts for the courses.

The tensions described by these professors were seen by task force members as typical of many campuses, where interest in criminal justice is taking off. At an increasing number of colleges, criminal justice has broken off from sociology into separate departments. But at many campuses where that has not happened, departments are facing what Steven E. Barkan, a professor at the University of Maine, called "structural tensions" of the sort he noted that sociologists realize have the potential to be unhealthy.

Many departments have reported to the task force, of which Barkan is a member, that two-thirds of their enrollments are now in criminal justice while one-third of faculty slots are there. Elite universities appear to be less affected by the trend, but elsewhere it is increasingly visible. Between 2001 and 2006, criminal justice overtook sociology in the number of bachelor's degrees completed. Sociology increased by 14.5 percent during that period, to 31,406. Criminology increased by 35.7 percent, to 34,209. During the same period of time, sociology master's degrees declined by 15 percent while criminology degrees (of which there aren't as many) increased by 135.5 percent, and criminal justice master's degrees were up 56.5 percent.

For sociology, the debates over what to do about these numbers aren't easy. Many in the discipline believe that such fields as gerontology and communications studies should be more fully integrated with sociology - and partisans of the various approaches debate whether sociology pushed them out on their own or whether professors in those areas wanted to be seen as independent from sociology. In an era of tight budgets, when enrollments are more crucial than ever to liberal arts departments, some sociologists want to be sure criminal justice stays within the discipline, while others fear its presence will dilute standards.

For sociology, there are actually two discussions going on. One is about criminology - which is seen as closer to sociology's roots and has a shared research and theoretical base, but focuses on a subset of issues. The other is about criminal justice, a more practical field in many cases designed to prepare students for careers in law enforcement or the judicial system. Many sociology departments are changing their names to "sociology and criminal justice" or just becoming the major for students interested in criminal justice, even though there isn't as much shared intellectual vision between the fields.

A survey of colleges by the ASA's task force found that 49 percent of institutions offered a sociology major only, 28 percent have separate departments of sociology and criminal justice with each offering a major, 19 percent have criminal justice and sociology majors offered by the sociology department, and the remainder offer only the criminal justice major.

According to results that task force members stressed were "very preliminary," many sociology chairs are reporting that they are being pressured to add criminal justice programs or to expand concentrations into full-fledged majors. The pressure, according to the chairs, comes from admissions offices, who report that criminal justice majors are hot, and will attract more applicants. Adding to the tension, the survey found, many chairs believe that their professors, especially older ones, hold their criminal justice colleagues in "low esteem."

If so, departments may be in for a rude awakening, according to data collected by the sociology task force. In the five years studied, the number of sociology Ph.D.'s increased by 3.1 percent, to 558. Doctorates in criminology and criminal justice, while still fewer in number, are increasing at much faster rates. The number of criminology doctorates awarded was up 19.0 percent, to 25, while criminal justice doctorates were up 88.1 percent, to 79. The increase is significant because many criminal justice programs have historically been led by sociologists, but with a critical mass of criminal justice Ph.D.'s being produced, that may change.

Some sociologists at the meeting Sunday talked about concerns over a "cop shop" mentality in criminal justice programs. In some programs, sociologists said, retired police officers are hired to "tell war stories," and the result is a loss of focus on the kinds of issues sociologists care about: the impact of poverty, race, gender and inequity on society. One sociologist said that he has been urged by his local police force to insist on the discipline's relevance in criminal justice programs. He quoted one police officer as saying: "We don't want you to teach them to shoot. We'll teach them to shoot."

But stressing traditional sociology knowledge may be easier said than done. Dennis W. MacDonald, chair of sociology at Saint Anselm College and chair of the task force, said that "even our sociology majors don't like theory." Several said that the attraction of criminal justice is pragmatic - with either students or their parents seeing that a criminal justice degree leads to many jobs. Even as sociology professors boast about how their bachelor's students can package their degrees for a variety of careers, they acknowledge that there is a huge demand for criminal justice graduates - no packaging needed.

That pragmatism upsets some sociologists, who view their field proudly within the liberal arts and sciences - not as job training. "We've gone from a culture that values higher education for the civilizing influence it has produced. And it should civilize and temper the worst impulses of humanity," said one professor. "Now we have a vocationalizing influence. Our students are not coming to be better citizens, but to be employable."

The degree of frustration at individual colleges seems to vary widely. Several described respectful and even friendly relationships between sociology and criminal justice professors, but at the other extreme, one person described one mixed department as "a war zone." Even some of those who described cordial relations, however, said that tended to change if departmental reorganizations were proposed. Beyond issues of philosophy, professors noted practical reasons some may want separate departments. One criminologist who is in a sociology department, but whose university has a separate criminal justice department, said that the criminologists in sociology have realized that their criminal justice colleagues in their own department are being paid more, and that's led them to discuss whether they want to move there.

The sociology task force appeared torn on just how much to push sociology's values. Barkan said that one proposal the committee is considering would be to set up a minimum list of sociology course topics - theory, research methods, statistics, inequalities - that should be part of any criminal justice degree. One member of the audience said that would be a great idea because it would allow sociologists to point to a national standard to be sure criminal justice programs have enough intellectual heft. But another audience member said such a list of requirements might have the opposite of the intended effect. It could easily prompt more criminal justice programs to sever ties to sociology and just do their own thing, he said.

An audience member who teaches criminology in a sociology program asked the task force to specifically address part of its report to non-criminology sociologists, and to stress that "criminal justice does belong." MacDonald said he thought it was important that criminal justice and criminology stay connected to sociology and that "it would be suicide" for the discipline to be seen as kicking the field out.

W. Wesley Johnson, president of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and director of the doctoral program in criminal justice at the University of Southern Mississippi, was not at the sociology meeting, but in a phone interview, he said he was not surprised by the discussion. Johnson said that when he started studying criminal justice, all programs were led by sociologists, and that's no longer the case. Currently, he said, there are three faculty jobs available for every new Ph.D. in criminal justice.

Johnson said that he believes that sociology professors and criminal justice professors have more in common than they sometimes realize. The roots of criminal justice and criminology are all in sociology research, he said. "We are both grounded in communities and environments."

Another way that sociology and criminal justice are similar, he said, is that neither approach has a monopoly on academic excellence. "This is a new degree and it is evolving, and some programs are more rigorous than others" he said, "but that's true of sociology as well."

Johnson declined to endorse either joint sociology-criminal justice departments or separate programs. But he said that as long as enrollments boom in criminal justice, there will be more pressure to hire professors in the field and to be sure that the discipline's interests are addressed. "Administrators are going to allocate resources to units that are producing the most credit hours," he said. "Whoever hold the checkbook gets to call the shots."


1 comment:

Admin said...

husshhh....what a pointful..discussion...
but i think still think school is a better place to teach academics..
here on i found some related article on School read it...