Throughout the last century
the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated the legal principle that the care, custody, and control of minor children rests with their parents, including decisions involving their educational and religious training. The High Court concluded over time that these parental rights were a liberty interest
bestowed by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
In the 1920's, the Supreme Court upheld the right of parents to educate their children in private schools
in a case known as Pierce v. Society of Sister
s. The court stated that "the child is not merely a creature of the state...Those who nurture him have the right to direct his
In the 1970's, the High Court sustained the right of parents to teach their children outside of public or private schools
in a case known as Wisconsin v. Yoder
. In a lawsuit involving an Amish family, the court ruled that parents have the legal privilege to instruct their children according to their own moral and cultural values.
The Supreme Court went even further in a 2000 case known as Troxel v. Granville
. The justices established that parental care, custody, and control was a fundamental right
under the Constitution. The court reinforced that states may not infringe on this fundamental right "simply because the state believes better decisions could be made."
While this stream of federal case law is impressive, it rests on a shaky foundation. A more liberal U.S. Supreme Court (which is only one vote away) could choose to abandon this case law, and dissolve the fundamental rights or liberty interests that parents have in the education and upbringing of their children. The surest way to insulate and protect these rights permanently is to write them into our state constitution.
Recent actions by the federal government have been a cause of concern when it comes to homeschooling. The issue was a central focus of a political asylum case
involving the Romeike family from Germany. The parents fled Germany because of harsh persecution from the German government over their insistence on home educating their children.
During the legal battle over the Romeike family's request for political asylum, the Obama Administration staked out its legal position. Despite the unequivocal federal case law we have described above, the U.S. Justice Department argued that "laws that ban homeschooling do not violate anyone's protected rights."
There have also been disturbing episodes on the state level. In 2011, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ordered a mother to enroll her home educated daughter in a public school. The court ruled that the child needed "exposure" to a public school setting because of the "rigidity" of her mother's faith. The justices decided that the girl required "different points of view" so she could "critically evaluate multiple systems of belief," so she could select which of those systems would "best suit her own needs."
Thanks to the actions of groups like Missouri Family Network and Families for Home Education, Missouri has
in state statute laws which are friendly to homeschooling parents and their children. However, those laws could be changed or amended at any time. A constitutional amendment would ensure that judges, legislators, and bureaucrats have to respect the educational decisions of parents as fundamental rights. Those rights could not be withdrawn or abrogated without a vote of the people.
We commend Senator Onder and Representative Haahr for acting to protect Missouri families who choose to educate their children according to a Christian value system. Senator Onder is himself a homeschooling parent, and Representative Haahr is himself a product of home education.
Senator Onder's bill is Senate Joint Resolution 12. Representative Haahr's bill is House Joint Resolution 31. You can read a copy of the bill by using this link:Freedom in Education Amendment
You can contact your state senator and state representative to let them know of your support for the Freedom in Education bill.
The link for House members is:House Members
The link for Senate members is:Senate Members