For Immediate Release: Texas School Districts Must Be Permitted to Protect Homeschooled Children’s Right to an Education
Canton, Ma., 11/03/2015 — Yesterday the Texas Supreme Court heard McIntyre v. El Paso Independent School District, a case centered around what authority, if any, Texas school districts have to ensure that homeschooled students are being educated. The case began in 2008, when Laura and Michael McIntyre’s then-17-year-old daughter ran away from home in order to attend public school and the children’s grandparents made a report to the school district stating that they had never seen their grandchildren doing schoolwork.
Under Texas law, homeschools operate as individual private schools. Parents are not required to provide notice of homeschooling or to submit any evidence that they are educating their children. While parents are required to provide instruction in good citizenship, math, reading, spelling, and grammar, there is no assessment mechanism to ensure that this instruction is being provided. “Texas’ homeschool law offers some of the fewest protections for homeschooled children in the country,” said Rachel Coleman, a homeschool alumna and the executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. “School districts aren’t given a lot of clarity or direction when it comes to safeguarding homeschooled children’s right to an education.”
When the county truancy officer visited the McIntyres, the couple refused to show him any evidence that they were educating their children. Based on this and on statements made by the children’s grandparents and the couple’s then-17-year-old daughter, the officer brought truancy charges against the McIntyres. When the charges were later dropped, the McIntyres sued the school district, claiming that the district had violated their fundamental liberty interest to direct their children’s education without any oversight from the state.
While the questions put to the Supreme Court also involve some technical legal issues, the central question remains the same—how much authority does the school district have to ensure that homeschooled children are being educated? The Coalition for Responsible Home Education recommends annual assessment requirements to ensure that instruction is being provided, and supports school districts’ ability to act on tips of educational neglect in states that lack such oversight. “Parents have many options for how to educate their children, but they don’t get to choose whether to educate their children,” said Coleman. “School districts should continue their vital role in protecting all children’s rights to be educated.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices. http://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org