A Florida judge surprised both parties in a fall custody hearing by declaring that the divorced couple’s children must cease their home-schooling regimen and begin attending public schools. Now, a prominent home-schooling advocacy group is urging the court to reconsider its position.
The nonprofit Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) filed an amicus brief on behalf of the children, whom both parents had agreed should be raised Catholic, after the judge interrupted a hearing meant to hammer out visitation rights to instead order the kids into the public school system.
From HSLDA’s report on the filing:
The mother and father have been fighting over visitation for years, and a scheduled hearing last summer seemed to be just the latest skirmish in the war. A court-appointed psychologist testified that the children were all doing well academically. But at the hearing, the guardian ad litem — appointed by the court to represent the children’s best interest — testified that her “gut reaction” was that the children should be in public school for socialization. The guardian also used the mother’s “ultra Catholic” beliefs as evidence against homeschooling, even though the divorce agreement had mandated that the children be raised Catholic.
Without warning, the judge used the hearing not just to rule on the visitation schedule, but also to order the kids into public school, even though the father had not made education an issue before the hearing. The judge lectured the mother, “When are they going to socialize? Is homeschool going to continue through college and/or professional schooling? At which point are these children going to interact with other children, and isn’t that in their best interest?” With that, the judge changed a long-standing court order permitting homeschooling and ordered the children into the local school.
The amicus brief seeks to disabuse the court of a number of long-held misconceptions about home schooling, including academic studies that demonstrate home-schooled children, on average, are well socialized, score well on standardized college entrance exams and go on to perform well as college students.
“Every mother who homeschools her children is familiar with the unfortunate myths that arose about socialization and academic preparation,” the brief argues. “Those myths have been empirically dispelled by a wide variety of research. On all counts homeschooling meets the standards set by public schools, and virtually all of the research demonstrates that homeschoolers far exceed that bar.”