New Court Ruling Challenges California Parents

A recent Calif. court ruling changes the rules about home schooling.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 12:49 AM

March 14, 2008 — -- Samantha Wulf's home is also her school.

And it could be shut down now that a California court ruled that it's a crime for parents without teaching credentials to home school their kids.

Samantha's mother, Rachel Shultz, told ABC News that she couldn't imagine being criminalized for caring for her child. Both she and her mother, Samantha's grandmother, have devoted their lives to the 13-year-old's schooling.

"I feel that I have this one chance in my child's life to really make a difference in her life," Rachel said. For Grandma Kirstin, "It's about learning and the love of learning."

But the court doesn't see it that way. It ruled that accredited teachers are best for students. Accreditation can cost upward of $10,000 dollars.

According to the California Teachers Association's David Sanchez, the most-qualified teachers "are the ones who have gone through the process of accreditation -- that's how we see it."

While a home-schooler's curriculum is pretty much up to his or her parents, the home-schooled students still have to score well on the same standardized tests that every other student takes to go to college.

If Samantha was in public school, she'd be in the seventh grade. But like many home-schoolers, she outperforms her public school counterparts. She's at least two grade levels ahead and is old enough to question the rationale of the ruling. "The people who are saying your child has to be in public school, they should analyze the child's situation and see if it's an adequate situation," she told ABC News.

The Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization run by Mike Farris. He's asking the court to prevent the case from being used as a precedent across the United States. "The California court said it simply doesn't matter if kids are learning. We're going to ignore that factor and force them into a bureaucratic system whether they're learning or not," he said.

The group is prepared to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And while they're fighting, Samantha's family will keep teaching.