Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Pennsylvania homeschooling decision
There seems to be a lot of litigation about home-schooling. After the California decision (see a post here), the Third Circuit has now weighed in with a decision involving Pennsylvania's regulation of home-schooling. (Here is the decision in Combs v. Homer-Center School District, which the Third Circuit decided on August 21, 2008.)
The decision is quite interesting. There is a fascinating discussion in the concurring opinion by Chief Judge Scirica. In that opinion, Chief Jusge Scirica addresses the parents' claim under Pennsylvania state law and concludes that the parents had not shown that the regulations violated a "specific tenet" of their religion because the parents had only cited general Biblical statements supporting parental control over their children's religious education. The parents could not cite a "specific" tenet of their religion prohibiting state review of their children's education.
On the federal issues, the court concluded that Smith controlled the free exercise issue. On the parental rights/substantive due process claim, the court concluded that parental right to control education did not extend to the type of claim the parents asserted in this case (the right to free from all reporting requirements and "discretionary" state oversight). The Court rejected a claim based on Yoder because the Pennsylvania requirements didn't threaten the families' entire way of life.
The court's treatment of the federal issues is in line with other treatments of parental rights issues, but this standard approach seems to underestimate the impact on parents and to be too willing to defer to state power.