State Court Affirms Privacy in Teaching Children at Home

Article excerpt

The privacy rights of Massachusetts home schoolers were affirmed Wednesday when the state's highest court ruled that public school officials don't have the right to visit homes to observe how parents teach their children.

Resolving a seven-year battle waged by two home-schooling families against Lynn Public Schools, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was unanimous in its opinion that it is "the basic right of parents to educate their children" and that home education proposals "can be made subject only to essential and reasonable requirements."

Home inspections "are not essential," the court said.

Home-schooling advocates hailed the decision as another sign that government is beginning to validate this alternative means of educating an estimated 1.5 million students nationwide. During the 1990s, as a result of persistent lobbying efforts, home education has become legal in all 50 states - though some have more rigid rules than others.

"It was worth waiting," said Mike Farris, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, who represented the families. "What we got from the court was the most insightful opinion ever written on home schooling in terms of understanding that home schools can be excellent without adhering to the rigid formalities associated with institutional schools."

The dispute in Lynn dates to 1991, when Stephen and Lois Jeanne Pustell dutifully filed a home education plan detailing their curriculum and method of evaluation. They were told it wouldn't be approved unless they allowed school officials to periodically observe them teaching. …