California Forum

California: Don’t punish all home-schoolers for one abuse case

Neighbor Liza Tozier, and her son, Avery Sanchez, 6, drop off his large “Teddy” as a gift for the children of Perris homeschoolers David and Louise Turpin, who have been charged with torturing and abusing the 13 siblings for years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Neighbor Liza Tozier, and her son, Avery Sanchez, 6, drop off his large “Teddy” as a gift for the children of Perris homeschoolers David and Louise Turpin, who have been charged with torturing and abusing the 13 siblings for years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) AP

Like the editorial board of The Sacramento Bee and the rest of the world, we at Home School Legal Defense Association are horrified and outraged by the events reported out of Riverside County. We love home schooling and believe it is an excellent educational and lifestyle choice for millions of families and children. So we are especially grieved when this freedom we love is exploited for evil.

We are concerned, however, that this horrible incident – words fail to describe the depravity – may lead to an unwarranted backlash and violation of the civil rights of law-abiding, thriving home-schooling families.

The story out of Riverside has prompted The Sacramento Bee and others to adopt a frightening position, the degree of which can be demonstrated by a simple thought problem.

The simplified argument: This parent who claims to be home schooling has committed unspeakable acts. Therefore, we need to treat all parents who claim to be home schooling with suspicion and make them submit to periodic government inspections of their homes and children.

Now substitute “parent who claims to be home schooling” with “Muslim.”

This Muslim has committed unspeakable acts. Therefore, we need to treat all Muslims with suspicion and make them submit to periodic government inspections of their homes and children.

If this makes you uncomfortable, it should. It would be wrong to treat Muslims or any other group of people this way.

Parenthood, family life, educational choices and the sanctity of the home all implicate constitutional rights just as much as religion does. The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed these constitutional principles many times. The high court said in 1979:

“That some parents ‘may at times be acting against the interests of their children’ … creates a basis for caution, but it is hardly a reason to discard wholesale those pages of human experience that teach that parents generally do act in the child’s best interest. … The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.”

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial concludes with a call for legislative hearings. If that should happen, HSLDA will be there – along with thousands of our friends – to make sure all sides of the issue are heard.

James R. Mason is the vice president and director of litigation for Home School Legal Defense Association, a national homeschool advocacy organization. Reach him at at jamesrmason@hslda.org.

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