Washington Times Op-ed—Supreme Court Levels Playing Field

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

It is no secret that homeschooling is growing and gaining credibility as a viable educational alternative.

More and more colleges are actively recruiting homeschooled students; each year there are an estimated 50,000-plus homeschool high school graduates who find work or go to college, and thousands of new curriculum products have become available over the past five years. Meanwhile, the number of homeschoolers continues to grow by 7 percent to 15 percent each year; more states are reforming their laws to remove the burdens from parents who want to home educate, and homeschoolers continue to excel in national competitions as well as on standardized tests. In short, homeschooling is a major success story.

Now, for the first time, homeschooling has been recognized in an opinion by a U.S. Supreme Court justice as a viable educational alternative. Morse v. Frederick, which recently made national headlines, involves free speech and whether a public school can regulate what a student says. The 5-4 decision said that the school principal, Deborah Morse, did not violate the free speech rights of Joseph Frederick when she took down his pro-marijuana banner, which said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The student had violated school policy and was advocating illegal drug use.

While the Home School Legal Defense Association agrees with the ruling in this specific case, it is a reminder to all families that when your child enters the public school, you have virtually ceded your parental rights to the public school.

The clearest explanation of this view was expressed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Fields v. Palmdale, when it said, “While parents may have a fundamental right to decide whether to send their child to a public school, they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child.”

This is the reason many parents have chosen to homeschool, especially those parents who have a religious worldview, because they know their children will be taught secular values by the public system.

In Morse v. Frederick, however, Justice Clarence Thomas said, “If parents do not like the rules imposed by those schools, they can seek redress in school boards or legislatures; they can send their children to private schools or home school them; or they can simply move.”

This is the first time the Supreme Court specifically has recognized homeschooling as a viable educational alternative. HSLDA has worked for 24 years to advance a parent’s right to homeschool and to promote homeschooling to the general public.

After 24 years, it is gratifying to read the words of a Supreme Court justice who rightfully placed homeschooling on a level playing field with public and private schools. This kind of recognition is tremendously significant to the homeschool community.

It’s another step on the long road to raise homeschooling to the point where, when the terms public, private or homeschool are used in the same sentence, they all will be seen as mainstream educational alternatives.

Homeschooling is a modern education success story and HSLDA urges all parents to carefully consider their educational options. Homeschooling should be front and center because it is a viable alternative that has helped hundreds of thousands of children become mature, productive citizens.