By Peter J. Smith

LOS ANGELES, August 11, 2008 ( – A California appeals court has made an about face on its previous decision to ban homeschooling, and now says that parents in the state have a legitimate right to educate their own children. However the court insisted that the right to homeschool can be abridged in cases where the courts suspect child abuse.

The California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District ruled Friday that “California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education,” effectively vacating its February 28 ruling that shocked homeschooling families in that state and across the nation.

The February ruling effectively would have reclassified an estimated 166,000 children as truants. The appellate court had decided California’s compulsory education law required parents without certified teaching credentials to pack their six to eighteen year-old children off to a full-time public or private school or face legal penalties.

After enormous public outcry from homeschool advocacy groups and many others, including Governor Schwarzenegger himself, the Court agreed in March to reconsider the case, and invited interested parties to file amicus briefs in a new hearing.

The same three judge panel has now concluded, “California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education” and adds the law does not require homeschooling parents to possess teaching certificates.

The court said that previous case law dating from 1953 that it had relied upon was anachronistic and did not reflect the fact that the Legislature “has acted as though home schooling is, in fact, permitted in California.”

“The most logical interpretation of subsequent legislative enactments and regulatory provisions supports the conclusion that a home school can, in fact, fall within the private school exception to the general compulsory education law,” the court continued.

“We therefore conclude that home schools may constitute private schools.”

However the court said that parents did not have an absolute right to homeschool in instances where the state considered the welfare of a child sufficiently endangered: “The statutory permission to home school may constitutionally be overridden in order to protect the safety of a child who has been declared dependent.”

On this basis, the appellate court ordered the family court judge to revisit whether the Long family should be allowed to continue to homeschool their two youngest children, ages seven and nine, so public school teachers could act as reporters of abuse, on account of reports of physical abuse by some of the other children in the family.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) alleged physical and emotional mistreatment by the father, Phillip Long, of the two eldest daughters. Another daughter, Rachel (born 1991), claimed she was sexually molested by a family acquaintance. However the court failed to describe Long’s alleged physical abuse in the facts summary. Court documents say Rachel, who has since run-away, wanted to go to public school, and DCFS said she was “at risk of serious emotional damage” unless she went to public school.

According to information obtained by World Net Daily, the allegations of physical abuse arose from the parents’ decision to impose corporal punishment through spankings on their children. Phillip Long told WND he and his wife homeschooled their children, because they did not want them exposed to the homosexual propaganda in public schools and Darwinian evolution that contradicted their religious beliefs.

Read the decision: