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CA Court of Appeal - Ruling


Pacific Justice Institute (Sunland Christian's legal team) IMG_2664
was directly involved in the defense for homeschooling in California! PJI’s motions for rehearing resulted in the court granting Sunland Christian School special status in this case, vacating their original ruling, and handing down a ruling (August 8, 2008) declaring homeschooling legal in California!

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Homeschooling Declared Legal in California!

Friday, August 8, 2008, the California Court of Appeals handed down their new homeschool ruling, declaring that non-credentialed parents can teach their own children at home in California!

Sunland Christian School (SCS) extends an overwhelming thanks to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), Brad Dacus, Kevin Snyder and their staff, for their excellent work in defending SCS and homeschooling in this case! We also appreciate the pray support, financial backing and moral encouragement given to PJI and SCS by our families and the hundreds of thousands of homeschoolers and homeschool groups! Our appreciation extends to all of the homeschool, family based, and governmental organizations in California and the United States for the amicus briefs they filed to assist in this case. We could not have seen this case through successfully without everyone’s help! Together we have seen the confirmation of the legality of homeschooling in California!

SCS continues to serve families throughout California and the United States by assisting families as they teach their own children at home!

UPDATE: July 16, 2008

The juvenile court has closed their case on our family and has released the children from their jurisdiction. However, the 2nd Court of Appeals still has the right to decide whether they will drop the appeal or render a ruling. Any ruling they render will have no individual effect on the family, but would be to set a precedent.

We have no way of know what they are thinking. Dropping the appeal or handing down a favorable ruling would be the best. A favorable ruling could further secure homeschooling for the future.

If the ruling would be unfavorable, our legal team will petition the California Supreme Court for an appeal. Continue to pray as we wait for the next word. The court has until September 23, 2008 to render a decision or hand down a ruling.IMG_3182C02

UPDATE - June 25, 2008

California Court of Appeals to Hand Down
a New Homeschool Ruling

Kevin Snyder, Laura and Terry Neven at Court

LOS ANGELES, CA – Judge Joan Klien closed out the oral arguments in the homeschooling case by declaring, “This is a momumental case!” For the first time in 55 years, the California Court of Appeals addressed the issue of homeschooling today. The courtroom, which seats approximately 100 people, was filled with over 50 lawyers.

This case, In Re: Rachel L., centers on whether or not a family in California has the constitution right and the legislative statutes to home school their children through a private school, namely Sunland Christian School. Sunland Christian School provided the court with evidence to verify their legal status as a private school in California and supported the constitutionality of homeschooling and legality of their educational program. The majority of arguments, including the children’s attorneys, felt the court did not need to make this a constitutional or homeschool case, but needed to address any concern over safety of the children.

Originally the court had handed down a ruling on February 28, 2008, which declared homeschooling as illegal in the State of California and Sunland Christian School as a ruse. In March, as a result of the family and Sunland Christian School’s motion for rehearing, the court vacated their ruling and granted today’s rehearing.

Twelve of the over 50 lawyers present gave oral arguments lasting anywhere from 2 and minutes to 22 minutes. Oral arguments began with the defense taking the first hour and twenty minutes; County Counsel, Public Advocates, California Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District and the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles. Arguments included accusing the lower court judge of misjudgment and support that dependency court should deny parent’s rights of deciding their children’s education.

The second round of oral arguments went to the Long family, Sunland Christian School and lawyers who support homeschooling: These arguments took up the next hour and ten minutes: Alliance Defense Fund (Long family), Pacific Justice Institute (Sunland Christian School), California Attorney General (Governor Schwarzenegger) and homeschool advocates. Arguments included supporting the lower court judge’s belief the family has a constitutional right to homeschool, thus dismissing the lower case, that there is no basis or evidence of risk to the children, Sunland Christians School’s compliance to the private school statutes, and the fact the parents are capable to teach.

While seven government organizations were invited to file amicus briefs, only four of them responded: California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District and the California Teachers Association. Those who did not respond were: California Federation of Teachers, Los Angeles County Board of Education, and United Teachers of Los Angeles. In addition, fourteen other groups filed briefs, including the Governor of the State of California, Attorney General of the State of California, and members of the United States Congress. Homeschool organizations and Christian liberties groups filed the remaining briefs. (See the information enclosed, summarizing the contents of the key briefs)

The Court of Appeal judges, H. Walter Croskey, Joan D. Klein and Patti S. Kitching, after listening to legal presentations, and asking questions of the lawyers, will now decide, from the new information provided, on a new ruling. They could possible remand the case back to the juvenile court for further evidential findings, or hand down a new ruling, with different positions on each of the items facing the court. The judges expressed their concern that the legislators may have been derelict in their duty to provide clarity in the statutes concerning homeschooling.

The issues facing the court were clearly listed by the court’s motion for rehearing:

  • Do California statutes permit home-schooling by the means of enrolling the children in a private school which exists to enable parents to home-school?
  • Do California statutes permit home-schooling by means of parents creating their own home-based private school?
  • Does the California legislative scheme violate the US Constitution, with respect to the free exercise of religion and parental control rights of parents who desire to home-school their children?
  • Does a dependency court have the ability to limit a parent’s right to make educational decisions for a child in order to protect the child?

    While the court has 90 days to hand down their decision, a ruling could be handed down at any time.

Points of Key Amicus Briefs:

Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles
1.Parents do not have a constitutional or statutory right to home school.
2.Even if in general parents in California have a right to home school their children, the parents in this case forfeited that right.

Governor of the State of California & Attorney General of the State of California –
1. Current California Law Provides Several Home Schooling Options for Children.
     a. Children May be Lawfully Home-Schooled By a Parent or Other Tutor Who
       Possesses a Valid California Teaching Credential.
     b. Children May be Lawfully Home-Schooled As a Part of a Public School Independent
       Study Program of a Standard School District or Charter School.
     c. Children may be Lawfully Home-Schooled as Part of a Private Home-Based School.
2. This court should remand this Case for a Determination of Whether the Parents have met the statutory home-school requirements.
3. The court need not decide any constitutional questions at this time.

Members of the United States Congress –
1.  Homeschooling has been recognized in fifty states and the district of Columbia as a valid form of education and should continue to be recognized as such in this state.
2.  The initial Appellate Panel incorrectly interpreted California law when it questioned this family’s participation in an Independent Study Program.

Sunland Christian School / Pacific Justice Institute
1. California’s Compulsory Education Laws Permit Independent Study Through a Private School.

UPDATE June 12, 2008

The Court of Appeals will be hearing oral arguments on the rehearing of In Re Rachel L. on Monday, June 23, 2008 at 10:00am in the Los Angeles Court of Appeals, District 2, Division 3. Sunland Christian School (SCS) has been granted special status in this case. The family’s lawyers and SCS lawyers will give arguments. This involves brief presentation by the lawyers followed by questions asked by the judges to the lawyers. While there are many directions this case could take, we ask for your prayerful support for a favorable outcome.

Some of the outcomes could be: the court maintaining the same ruling, remanding the case back to the lower court for further evidential findings, or make a new ruling which could also have a wide variety of positions. Whatever direction this case takes, Sunland Christian School is committed to maintain our integrity and follow up with the appropriate legal action. If necessary, SCS will have Pacific Justice Institute petition the California Supreme Court for an appeal.

UPDATE May 6, 2008

In the midst of wild speculations, spins on who’s doing what, declarations of involvement, statements of actions being taken, it is important to keep the homeschool community informed about what is happening on the legal side of this case.

While the initial ruling has been vacated, the process is in motion for the court of Appeals to rehear the case and hand down a new decision. This process happens somewhat quietly behind the scenes without much public drama, making it unknown to the homeschool community about the process. Following is a skeleton schedule of the process to help the public understand what has and will be happening and the time frames involved.

Feb 28 – In Re Rachel L ruling handed down.
March 14 – Long family and Sunland Christian School petition for rehearing
March 25 – The Court of Appeals vacated their ruling and grants a rehearing
April 28 – The Longs and Sunland Christian School file first briefs for the rehearing (1 of 3 briefs to be filed by these parties). These are the only ones allowed at this time.

UPCOMING: (some dates are approximate)

May 14 – Long children’s court appoint attorneys file their first brief
May 19 – The Long family and Sunland Christian School will file their second brief ( a first response to the children’s attorneys brief) Other invited or approved organizations must file their Amicus Briefs by this date. (So far the list consists of California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education-Legal, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County Board of Education, California Federation of Teachers, CTA State Headquarters, and United Teachers of Los Angeles) “This court will also consider timely applications to file amicus curiae briefs from any other party or entity if the application for such participation demonstrates that the additional brief(s) might assist the court in deciding the matter.”

June 2 – The Long family, Sunland Christian School and the children’s court appointed attorneys may file a final response brief to any amicus briefs (final filing ).

June – (date to be set by court) - Oral Arguments (limited to the parties in this case). These arguments are not for providing witnesses or additional evidence, but for the attorneys to give their final presentations.

October 1 - A new ruling will be decided by the Court of Appeals and could be handed down by or before October 1, 2008. The action to follow will depend on the ruling. As pure speculation, a favorable ruling could confirm homeschooling as a legal option for education without new legislation. An unfavorable one will be appealed to the California State Supreme Court, placing on hold any ruling until the court turns down an appeal or rules on the case after a hearing.

Sunland Christian School appreciates all the support, prayers and donations given by thousands of homeschoolers throughout California and the nation (donations are needed to help cover costs related to this defense: phone, mailing, transportation, etc).

We ask that you consider giving a donation to Sunland Christian School and/or Pacific Justice Institute, our legal team, for all the hard work they are donating to this cause for all homeschoolers.

Please forward this page to your support group, ISP, friends, church, media, etc., to help provide an accurate understanding of the process ahead and to invite prayer for the outcome of this case.

UPDATE - 4/28/08

  Pacific Justice Institute and Sunland Christian School will file in the Court of Appeal for the granted rehearing of the case.

UPDATE / 4-2-08

   The Court of Appeal of the State of California has vacated its ruling and has granted a rehearing of In re Rachel L. Oral arguments may be heard as early as June. The Court of Appeal will hand down a new ruling at the end of this process (approximately 3-4 months after the rehearing). It will be determined at that time what the necessary steps will be as a result of the new ruling. The court has invited Amicus Curiae briefs of the following organizations: California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County Board of Education, California Federation of Teachers, CTA State Headquarters, United Teachers of Los Angeles and Sunland Christian School. Others (HSLDA, etc) may petition the court to file a brief. The court will determine if they will allow them to file.

   Sunland Christian School and Pacific Justice Institute will pursue an appeal at the California Supreme Court on the motion to intervene.

Click on the following links for more information:

Background History
Are You Confused?
What Should Homeschoolers and Administrators Do Now?
Be a Part of the Solution, not the ProblemIMG_2676
Words of Encouragement to Homeschoolers
Governor Schwarzenegger's Statement
Watch Fox News Clip on This Ruling
Watch CNN's Headline News Clip on This Ruling.
CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Joel Anderson's California Resolution
Press Conference at the State Capitol


Help raise funds to defend homeschooling in California!


Background History

     A family in Sunland Christian School (SCS) dealt with allegations from the Department of Children Services (DCS) through the Juvenile Court. The judged closed the case, handing down a favorable decision for the family allowing them to continue homeschooling. The DCS worker closed their case.

     However, the court appointed lawyers for the children didn't like the ruling and appealed to the California Court of Appeals. During this process, no new evidence or testimony could be heard and the court made a decision based on the information, evidence and process of the lower court. Their decision indicated parents do not have a constitutional right in the State of California to determine their children's education and deemed that no form of homeschooling is legal in the state. We believe this decision is misinformed and needs to be overturned.

     This ruling affects all homeschoolers and homeschool programs, both public and private, in the State of California. Sunland Christian School has become the representative group for homeschoolers in this ruling, and has a moral and legal obligation to pursue all possible due process in having this ruling overturned. SCS' board, after interviewing various legal defense funds, determined that Pacific Justice Institutewas the best fit for representing SCS and homeschoolers in California.


     With the Court of Appeals ruling In re Rachel L., there were many different opinions and statements being promoted on the original ruling.

1. The original ruling had set a precedent and interpreted the law in California. It was not a ruling just for the family involved.
2. At this moment, there is no provision in the California Constitution defining parent’s right to direct their children's education. (We believe all homeschool families have a constitutional right).
3. California Educational statutes do not currently define homeschooling.
4. California homeschoolers have been educating their children under the current laws for the past 27+ years without any major conflict.
5. The ruling would have effected both private home homeschoolers and public charter home school programs, distant learning and independent study programs.
6. While legal appeals and processes are still being pursued (which SCS's legal team, Pacific Justice, has done) the ruling has been vacated until a new ruling is handed down. Additional appeals can occur after a new ruling (possible 4 months to 5 years). During this time no homeschool family will be challenged in a court of law with this ruling.

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS of the origial ruling:
1. This ruling originally created panic among homeschoolers. We encourage homeschool groups to continue all homeschool support! Please do not to feed the panic, confusion, or use it for personal gain.
2. If this ruling was left alone (because of fear that the California Supreme Court might uphold the ruling), then the ruling would continue to stand as law, unless new legislation is submitted and passed. New legislation will not be introducted until this legal process is complete. So appealing to the California Supreme Court is a necessary step.
3. If the ruling was de-published, it would then only apply to the family involved in the case (This also requires a California Supreme Court decision.) However, in that condition, anyone could still use the case to take any homeschool family to court on the same grounds. De-publishing the case only temporarily helps everyone else, but the family involved, and continues to leave everyone at risk. De-publishing would create an ongoing state of panic, increased court cases against homeschoolers and offers no guarantee of our constitutional rights being protected. It would throw the Long family under the bus, to generate a guaranteed widespread need for increased homeschool legal defense. The resolution for this is an appeal to the California Supreme Court or new legislation in the event the ruling is not overturned. Homeschoolers do not want new legislation.
4. The Court of Appeal will now rehear the case. This opportunity, which has been granted, will allow the court to revisit this case with new briefs. The new ruling can completely change the direction things were going. It could possibly provide homeschooling with a more secure future than we have had to date.


     First of all don't panic. Help those who feel distraught and afraid, to be at peace and have faith for a favorable outcome. While we having this ruling reheard, it won't be used in court against homeschoolers. Continue to homeschool effectively, caring about your family, children, their growth and development and their academic instruction.

     Administrators of ISPs need to comfort their families, assuring them there is no need to panic, and continue to serve your families well. Many ISPs are continuing to enroll new families and are experiencing an increase in inquiries about their programs. This is a pivotal time to continue in prayer and good works, and be strong and of a good courage! Don't pull back and alter what you are doing, except in areas where improvement is needed. Don't model behavior which fosters confusion and panic in your children. They need you to lead and love them with confidence! Encourage each other with these words.

 Terry Neven

     While it is normal for anyone to feel panic, insecurity, uncertainty, anger and a wide range of various emotions, as a result of the Court of Appeals ruling, do not let your feelings control your words or actions. When we do, it usually is destructive rather than constructive and it effects us individually as well. Don't be a contributor to spreading unfounded statements or gossip. In situations of this type, people try to find someone to blame when situations out of their control effect them. "If only the school had..." "Something must be wrong with the family..." Why aren't certain homeschool leaders more directly involved?"

     Spreading negative and unsubstantiated facts is gossip, and while it can be a stimulating past time, it doesn't help in the overall picture. Don't jump to conclusions based on limited information. We have all seen the results of angry, emotionally charged persons, reacting to their limited information, giving their opinion in a negative way. Churches, families and communities split over this type of behavior.

     As the homeschool community, we need to pull together and help one another, regardless of style, philosophy, political preferences, religious beliefs, organization affiliation, etc. Don't talk negatively about other homeschool leaders or groups you don't know or agree with. Pray for them. Uphold them. Speak well of them and do good to them. If we don't have something supportive to say, don't say anything at all. Don't be the creator or spreader of gossip. Cases can be lost by unnecessary infighting within any movement or organization. Be a strong link in the chain, as we all pull together for positive change in California!

Laura Neven

     At a time when the validity of homeschooling is being questioned and our right to choose to homeschool is being challenged, we need to be reassured of the reasons for our choice to homeschool. Without question we all know the significance of our children getting a solid academic based education. With concerns about the environment and content of education available to our children through our public school system, we as parents find many reasons to be concerned about how that system is serving our children. We were given the awesome gift and responsibility of raising children, and this creates a desire and need to make choices that are the best for them.

     We recognize that we can not shelter our children from elements of concern that they are exposed to everyday, whether in a social or public setting, not to mention television and other media publications. We can guide, guard and limit that exposure and provide supportive tools to assist them in interacting with others and discerning how to deal with situations they will face. Our children are the young men and women of the future. How we, with God's guidance, participate in the influencing, shaping and molding of their lives is crucial. God's call for us to homeschool, as a means of guiding, nurturing and loving our children through these early years of their lives, is a call we have answered!

     The concerns that lead us to the choice to homeschool are also the foundation from which we must stand together in support of our choice. Life is never free of challenges that cause us to examine our values, morals and priorities we have set. We need to stand in unity for our children, our family and God's Family by seeking to uphold the values of family. Be assured of Sunland's continued support of your family, no matter where you homeschool, as we stand with you in the raising of your precious children.


     "Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will."


     Jack O'Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction states, "The California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to homeschool in this state."


     California Assemblyman Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) has introduced a resolution supporting homeschooling and calling on the Supreme Court to reverse the Second Appellate Court ruling In re Rachel L. SCS is requesting that California residents support homeschooling by contact their legislators & ask them to vote for this resolution.


    Assemblyman Ted Gaines, Pacific Justice Institute's Chief Counsel, Kevin Snider, and Sunland Christian School's principal, Terry Neven, held a press conference on Thursday, March 13, 2008, to discuss its legal response to the In re Rachel L. anti-homeschooling court ruling which has sparked nationwide shock and outrage. The press conference took place on the west steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento.


1. Pray!!!! Any specific help needed will be requested!!
2. Give your support in words and financially. While Pacific Justice Institute is taking this case pro bono, expenses in handling a case like this could cost $250,000.00 or more.

     Thank you for your contributions to Pacific Justice Institute and Sunland Christian School! Your contribution will only be used for this defense. DONATE NOW!


     Following are the steps and possible directions the defense by Pacific Justice Institute for SCS and the homeschool can take:
1. The Court of Appeals will rehear the case (oral arguments in June).
2. We will continue to file a petition for appeal to the California Supreme Court. If they grant us an appeal, we will continue to preparing for a hearing.
4. When the Court of Appeal hands down a new ruling, it will be determined at that time what are the proper steps to follow. If unfavorable, we will file for an apeal to the California Supreme Court.
5. If all these steps do not return a favorable ruling for homeschooling, the Governor and
legislators will most likely steps through legislation. No homeschool group desires legislation. However, if things come to this, we will need to make sure restrictive legislation is not passed.

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