Photo by Charles Webber

Site by Cindy Cotter
Revised March 13, 2002

Email Discussion Group: CA-HS-Law
Legal issues that affect California homeschoolers.

Legal Reference Desk
for California Homeschoolers:

A Page of Annotated Links

Compulsory education
Approaches to Homeschooling
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Public Independent Study Programs
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Private Schools
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Tutoring
Related Issues

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Special Education
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Curfews
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Welfare
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Child Labor Laws
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Child Abuse and Neglect
Legislative and Political Issues
Laws and Regulations
Government Links
Legal Representation


New to
Homeschooling?
Start here!

STATEWIDE SUPPORT GROUPS
California Homeschool Network - An inclusive California support group for homeschoolers.
Christian Home Educator's Association of California - A non-profit ministry for home educators.
Homeschool Association of California - An inclusive California support group for homeschoolers.


Compulsory Education

Compulsory education (EC 48200) -You have to be in public school or an approved alternative between the ages of 6 and 18, inclusive.
Age kids must start school (EC 48010) - If you turn 6 on or before December 2, you should be enrolled in first grade (or some alternative) for that school year.
Age you can leave school - You may leave school when you have graduated from high school (EC 48410) or passed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) and obtained parental permission to leave (EC 48412). Otherwise you are covered by the compulsory education law (EC 48200) until you are 19.
Truancy laws (EC 48260-48273) - The penalties for not obeying the compulsory education law.
Habitual Truancy (WIC 601.b) - Four or more truancies in one school year can be defined as habitual truancy.
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor (PC 272.a.1) - Encouraging a child to be truant (per WIC 601) is a misdemeanor. The penalties are greater than for truancy alone, including greater fines and possible jail time for the parents or guardians of the truant child.
School Attendance Review Boards - School Attendance Review Boards (SARBs) help truant or recalcitrant students and their parents or guardians solve school attendance and behavior problems through the use of available school and community resources. If that doesn't work, they have the power to send you to court.
Pierce v. Society of Sisters -1925 Supreme Court Decision authorizing private schools as an alternative to compulsory public school attendance.
Wisconsin v. Yoder -the 1972 Supreme Court Decision that freedom of religion limits the power of the state to compulse education.
Troxel v. Granville -the 2000 Supreme Court Decision affirming the authority of fit parents over their own children.

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Public Independent Study Programs

You may homeschool through a public independent study program run by a traditional public school, a charter school (which is a special kind of public school), or a county office of education.

Independent study laws for public schools (EC 51745-51749.3) Some homeschoolers use public independent study programs.
California Consortium for Independent Study - Statewide group is for the advancement of public independent study programs.
Charter Schools Act of 1992 (EC 47600-47604.5) - About 1/3 of California's charter schools offer homeschooling
Establishment of charter schools (EC 47505-47608)
California Network of Educational Charters (CANEC) - A statewide group for charter schools.
Religious instruction and materials in public schools - One issue of concern to some homeschoolers is whether they'll be able to use religious materials in their instruction if they participate in a public program. In general this should not be a problem, although it is unlikely you will be reimbursed with public funds for the purchase of religious materials. See Article 9, Section 8 of the California Constitution.

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Private Schools

Attendance at a private school is a legal alternative to public school as long as the private school files a private school affidavit (R-4) once a year. Private school homeschooling takes many forms. Some conventional schools offer homestudy courses as an adjunct to their onsite programs. Some companies offer correspondence courses or distance education. Some homeschoolers form independent study programs with no onsite program at all. Some churches run independent study programs. Some families establish schools in their own homes for their own children. The laws described here are only those that deal with educational issues. Other laws, such as those governing the running of a business, aren't covered.

Enabling legislation (EC 48220-48232) - Authorizes private schools an an exception to compulsory attendance at a public school.
Legality of private school homeschooling in California - An argument by appellate attorney Stephen Greenberg that filing an R-4 is a legal option for homeschooling families, downloadable from the Homeschool Association of California.
Private school affidavit (EC 33190-33193) - All private schools in California (including family homeschools) must file a private school affidavit (R-4) once a year if attendance at their school is to be accepted as a legal alternative to attendance at a public school.
Fingerprinting (EC44210-44239.5) - Requirements for private school staff, specifically exempting parents who teach only their own children. Besides providing an exemption to fingerprinting for homeschoolers, this law suggests that the California legislature does acknowledge that some in some legitimate private schools parents teach their own children.
Private school laws - A summary of California state law provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
High school graduation requirements (EC 51225.3) - These are the public school course requirements for a high school diploma. The Los Angeles County Office of Education thinks they might be helpful to private schools setting their own standards, but according to a published opinion of the State Attorney General, private school students must satisfy the same requirements to receive a high school diploma from a private school. The Attorney General's opinions are advisory, not legally binding.  You can find the opinion here by typing the number of the opinion (86-604) into the search box.
Processing Fees -Three counties charge processing fees when private schools file their affidavits, Alameda, Contra Costa and Los Angeles. County Counsel for Alameda County Office of Education cites EC35160 and 35160.5 as justification for fee. Read those laws here. Private schools in those counties may avoid the fee by filing directly with the state.
Pierce v. Society of Sisters -1925 Supreme Court Decision authorizing private schools as an alternative to compulsory public school attendance.

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Tutoring

Enabling legislation (EC 48220-48232) - Authorizes tutoring as an exception to compulsory attendance in a public school.

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Special Education

Homeschoolers may be entitled to special education services.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Special Education - Information from the California State Department of Education.
Public Services for Private School Pupils -Information from the U.S. Department of Education
More on Public Services for Private School Pupils - Put the opinion number, 00-112, in the search box to read the entire opinion.  Here's a summary:  "A public school district is required to provide special education programs to a child with disabilities who has been voluntarily enrolled by a parent in a private school only to the extent that the programs can be purchased with the proportionate share of federal funds made available to the school district under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act." Published opinion of the California Attorney General's Office, May 18, 2000.
McGeorge School of Law - The law school at the University of the Pacific provides both mediators and hearing officers to resolve disputes between school districts and parents of disabled children throughout California.

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Curfews

Daytime juvenile curfews can be a nuisance for homeschoolers.

City and County Codes -There is no state curfew law in California, but many cities and counties have passed their own. Most municipal and county codes aren't online, but this is a handy compilation of those that are.
Monrovia's curfew law - This article describes the legal battles surrounding Monrovia's precedent-setting daytime curfew law.
EC 48205 - Monrovia's law was overturned when it was characterized as a truancy law because it overstepped the bounds of EC 48205, a state law listing  valid reasons for a public school student to be absent while school is in session. Local governments can't override state laws.  On appeal the law was reframed as a curfew law, not a truancy law, and was reinstated.
San Diego's Curfew Law Struck Down, 6/97- This article gives the constitutional reasons that a federal appeals court struck down the San Diego juvenile curfew -- too vague, interfered with free speech rights, usurped parents' rights as guardians.

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Welfare

Caseworkers may be concerned about the educational arrangements you make for your children if you accept public assistance. Here's why.

Federal welfare reform - The federal welfare reform of 1996 withholds money from states unless they ensure that children in families who receive welfare are not truant. See Section 404 (i).
WIC 11250-11270 - This section of the Welfare and Institutions Code is part of CalWORKS, California's response to federal welfare reform. It details the requirement that the children in families who receive welfare under WIC 11450 are required to attend school. See Section 11253.5.
WIC 11450-11469.1 - WIC 11450 describes the kind of assistance that is contingent on your children attending school. It doesn't treat the issue of how "school" is defined.

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Child Labor Laws

Child Labor Laws - A pamphlet of useful information maintained by the California Department of Industrial Relations.
Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States (1998) - A book by the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences, including a chapter on laws and regulations. All online.

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Child Abuse and Neglect

Penal Code Section 11164-11174.3 - Private school administrators (which includes the administrator of a private independent study program) are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect and may be fined and or jailed for failing to do so.

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Legislative and Political Issues

California Bill Information - The full text of bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments, and their status, history, votes, analyses, and veto messages. A searchable site. You can even "subscribe" to a bill and get email updates when any action is taken on it.
Federal Legislation - Thomas, providing access to federal legislation, the congressional record, and committee information.
Election Information - Links to election information maintained by California State University, Northridge.

GROUPS WHO FOLLOW BILLS OF POTENTIAL INTEREST TO HOMESCHOOLERS:
California Consortium for Independent Study - Statewide group is for the advancement of public independent study programs.
California Homeschool Network - An inclusive California support group for homeschoolers.
California Network of Educational Charters (CANEC) - A statewide group for charter schools
Charter Schools Development Center - A non-profit resource center providing technical assistance to the charter school reform movement in California and nationally.
Christian Home Educator's Association of California - A non-profit ministry for home educators.
Homeschool Association of California - An inclusive California support group for homeschoolers.
Homeschool Legal Defense Association - A nationwide support group for homeschoolers.

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Laws and Regulations

STATE:
California Code -All California state laws, searchable
Education Code -Table of contents with links to the codes
Welfare and Institutions Code -Table of contents with links to the codes
State Constitution -Table of contents, with links to the text
California Code of Regulations -Regulations adopted by state regulatory agencies, including the Department of Education
California Case Law, 1934-Present - You have to register with FindLaw to use this searchable site, but registration is free.

LOCAL:
City and County Codes - Most municipal and county codes aren't online, but here's a handy compilation of those that are.

FEDERAL:
Legislation, Regulations, and Policy Guidance - From the U.S. Department of Education
A Digest of Federal Education Law - A brief history of federal education laws.  It provides an interesting glimpse of the growth of federal influence in education and the motivations behind it.  The first serious involvement of the federal government in the curriculum of public schools, for example, was in 1958, and the title of the law was the National Defense Education Act
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RESEARCH TOOLS:
CA Law Net's Legal Research Page - A basic page of legal resources
The Legal Corner - Another collection of useful legal research tools

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Government Links

California Department of Education - Useful information of all kinds.
County Offices of Education - These sites may contain useful information. They are also the offices from which private school affidavits may be obtained and to which they are usually returned, but some (Alameda, Contra Costa and Los Angeles) charge a processing fee it you submit the affidavit (R-4) to them. See the section of this page devoted to private schools.

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Legal Representation

AHSA-USA - An email discussion group where homeschoolers can meet attorneys -- but it is growing into a referral service for homeschoolers who need legal assistance.
H.E.L.P. Enterprises - Prepaid legal protection provided by several homeschooling families operating as Independent Associates of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc.
Homeschool Legal Defense Association - In addition to information and support, this group will also provide legal representation for members, and occasionally, in precedent-setting cases, for nonmembers.
McGeorge School of Law - The law school at the University of the Pacific provides both mediators and hearing officers to resolve disputes between school districts and parents of disabled children throughout California.
Pacific Justice Institute - Supports attorneys, individuals, churches and organizations in the fight for religious freedoms, sanctity of life, parental rights and other civil liberties.
Rutherford Institute - Provides information about civil liberties and human rights (including religious freedom and parental rights) and defends people who have been denied civil and human rights without charge.

These support groups also offer legal help on a limited basis:
California Homeschool Network - An inclusive California support group for homeschoolers.
Homeschool Association of California - An inclusive California support group for homeschoolers.

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