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Federal Court Decisions

Federal Court Decisions

These cases have touched upon either parental rights and the interest of the state in the education of a child or have directly spoken to the education of a child in the home. This is by no means an exhaustive list. This is here for you to see that you do indeed have a right homeschool your child if you so choose. Below are links to US Supreme Court decisions for full context with pertinent excerpts of comments the court made about or related to homeschooling. Enjoy reading through the decades  and centuries as your right to homeschool your child has always been there.

1890's United States Court Cases

Sheibley v. School Dist. No. 1 of Dixon County et al, 31 Neb. 552, 48 NW 393 (1891):  “The right of the parent .... to determine what studies his child shall pursue is paramount to that of .... trustees or teachers.”

Commonwealth v. Roberts, 159 Mass. 372, 34 NE 374 (1893):  “The great object of (the compulsory attendance) provisions of the statutes has been that all children be educated, not that they be educated in any particular way.”

1920's United States Court Cases

MEYER v. NEBRASKA, 262 U.S. 390 (1923): 

>>>>  “The problem for our determination is whether the statute as construed and applied unreasonably infringes the liberty guaranteed to the plaintiff in error by the Fourteenth Amendment:  'No state ... shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.' 

While this court has not attempted to define with exactness the liberty thus guaranteed, the term has received much consideration and some of the included things have been definitely stated. Without doubt, it denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. [various cases cited] The established doctrine is that this liberty may not be interfered [262 U.S. 390, 400] with, under the guise of protecting the public interest, by legislative action which is arbitrary or without reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state to effect. Determination by the Legislature of what constitutes proper exercise of police power is not final or conclusive but is subject to supervision by the courts. Lawton v. Steele, 152 U.S. 133, 137 , 14 S. Sup. Ct. 499.

The American people have always regarded education and acquisition of knowledge as matters of supreme importance, which should be diligently promoted. The Ordinance of 1787 declares: 

'Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.' 

Corresponding to the right of control, it is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life; and nearly all the states, including Nebraska, enforce this obligation by compulsory laws.”

>>>>  “Evidently the Legislature has attempted materially to interfere with the calling of modern language teachers, with the opportunities of pupils to acquire knowledge, and with the power of parents to control the education of their own. “

>>>>  “The power of the state to compel attendance at some school and to make reasonable regulations for all schools, including a requirement that they shall give instructions in English, is not questioned. Nor has challenge been made of the state's power to prescribe a curriculum for institutions which it supports.”

PIERCE v. SOCIETY, 268 U.S. 510 (1925):

>>>>  “No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.”

>>>>  “…. We think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children [268 U.S. 510, 535] under their control. As often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation, which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. “

FARRINGTON v. T. TOKUSHIGE, 273 U.S. 284 (1927):

>>>>  “…. the School Act and the measures adopted thereunder go far beyond mere regulation of privately supported schools, where children obtain instruction deemed valuable by their parents and which is not obviously in conflict with any public interest. They give affirmative direction concerning the intimate and essential details of such schools, intrust their control to public officers, and deny both owners and patrons reasonable choice and discretion in respect of teachers, curriculum, and textbooks. Enforcement of the act probably would destroy most, if not all, of them; and, certainly, it would deprive parents of fair opportunity to procure for their children instruction which they think important and we cannot say is harmful.”

>>>>  “The general doctrine touching rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to owners, parents and children in respect of attendance upon schools has been announced [273 U.S. 284, 299] in recent opinions. Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 43 S. Ct. 625, 29 A. L. R. 1446; Bartels v. Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 , 43 S. Ct. 628; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 , 45 S. Ct. 571, 39 A. L. R. 468. While that amendment declares that no state shall 'deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,' the inhibition of the Fifth Amendment, 'No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,' applies to the federal government and agencies set up by Congress for the government of the territory. Those fundamental rights of the individual which the cited cases declared were protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by the states, are guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment against action by the territorial Legislature or officers. “

1950's United States Court Cases

PEOPLE v. LEVISEN  404 Ill. 574, 14 A.L.R.2d 1364 (1950):  The object is that all children shall be educated, not that they shall be educated in any particular manner or place. See Commonwealth v. Roberts, 159 Mass. 372, 34 N.E. 402. Here, the child is being taught third-grade subjects, has regular hours for study and recitation, and shows a proficiency comparable with average third-grade students. There is nothing in the record to indicate her education is in any way being neglected. We think the term 'private school,' when read in the light of the mainfest object to be attained, includes the place and nature of the instruction given to this child. The law is not made to punish those who provide their children with instruction equal or superior to that obtainable in the public schools. It is made for the parent who fails or refuses to properly educate his child. 

1970's United States Court Cases

WISCONSIN v. YODER, 406 U.S. 205 (1972):  There is no doubt as to the power of a State, having a high responsibility for education of its citizens, to impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education. See, e. g., Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534 (1925). Providing public schools ranks at the very apex of the function of a State. Yet even this paramount responsibility was, in Pierce, made to yield to the right of parents to provide an equivalent education in a privately operated system. There the Court held that Oregon's statute compelling attendance in a public school from age eight to age 16 unreasonably interfered with the interest of parents in directing the rearing of their offspring, including their education in church-operated schools. As that case suggests, the values of parental direction of the religious upbringing [406 U.S. 205, 214] and education of their children in their early and formative years have a high place in our society. See also Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629, 639 (1968); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923); cf. Rowan v. Post Office Dept., 397 U.S. 728 (1970). Thus, a State's interest in universal education, however highly we rank it, is not totally free from a balancing process when it impinges on fundamental rights and interests, such as those specifically protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the traditional interest of parents with respect to the religious upbringing of their children so long as they, in the words of Pierce, "prepare [them] for additional obligations." 268 U.S., at 535

Vermont v. LaBarge, 357 Atl. Rptr. 2d 121 (1976):  “Compulsory school attendance must yield to First Amendment concerns ....Indeed, we would be in bad condition in America if every school had to be state approved.”

STATE OF OHIO v. WHISNER:  Supreme Court of Ohio 47 Ohio St. 2d 181; 351 N.E.2d 750 (1976):

PAUL v. DAVIS, 424 U.S. 693 (1976): 

PARHAM v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979):

Moore v. City of East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 503 (1977) (plurality):  “….the Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”