SUNLAND IMPACTS CALIFORNIA HISTORY
It’s not very often that a homeschool program makes state and national news, but
Sunland had the honor of being a part of California history. Sunland was granted
special status in a 2008 California Court of Appeals case which set a favorable
state precedent for homeschooling for the first time in California history!
Sunland began in 1986 with just 24 students as an outreach of a local church,
Sunland Household of Faith. While the church merged with a denomination in 1993,
Sunland continued to operate on its own. Its focus is unique. All of its students are
taught at home by their parents or grandparents, commonly known as home schooling.
At first it was scrutinized, in 1989, by Los Angeles Unified School District as illegal, but soon began to receive support from the Los Angeles County Office of Education as a legitimate solution for families looking for an alternative approach for education.
In 2008 its legitimacy was once again challenged, this time in the California
Court of Appeals. One family enrolled in the school, which has now served over
3000 students, came under the supervision of the Department of Children’s Services
for alleged misconduct in parenting. While the municipal case was resolved and
closed, the court appointed attorneys for the children wanted to use the system to
force them into public school. They requested the California Court of Appeals to
render a ruling on the legality of homeschooling in California.
February 28, 2008, the court initially handed down a ruling, declaring Sunland
a ruse and homeschooling by a non-credentialed parent was illegal in California.
Since the lower, municipal, court had not addressed the issue of homeschooling,
this ruling was deemed by Sunland’s legal team as a misjudgment. The school and its family petitioned the California Court of Appeals to grant a rehearing on the issue, allowing the school to defend itself and provide evidence for a possible new ruling. The court vacated its original ruling and granted Sunland special status in the case.
Sunland was not the only organization who would have been affected by the court’s original ruling. This would have impacted all homeschoolers in the state, California public school independent study programs (such as, LAUSD’s City of Angels), charter home study programs (Options for Youth) and distant learning programs (K12 Charters). The ruling would have required public schools to send a credentialed teacher into each home to instruct students.
With the help of the California Governor, California State Attorney General, California Department of Education, United States Senators and homeschool organizations through out the state and country, the Court of Appeals listened to the evidence provided by Sunland and reversed their ruling. While there is currently no legislation in California defining “homeschooling,” the court of appeals handed down a ruling which set a precedent for the first time in California’s history. The ruling, August 8, 2008, declared it legal for a non-credentialed parent to teach their own child at home, and established Sunland as a species of private schools in California. Families can continue to legally teach their own children at home by enrolling them in a school like Sunland.
Pacific Justice Institute (Sunland’s legal team) lead the fight in overturning In re Rachel L. and represents homeschooling families in the United States without a membership fee. Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) has extensive litigation experience in the courtroom defending homeschoolers.
President of PJI, Brad Dacus, has defended religious freedom and parental rights for the past 15 years. PJI has a network of about one thousand volunteer affiliate attorneys and handles more cases on the West Coast than any other organization of its kind. PJI not only defends homeschoolers, but defends the rights of churches and religious liberty issues.
The primary mission of Pacific Justice Institute is to provide rigorous defense for families and religious organizations when their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms are threatened. Their legal representation is always free of charge to clients, supported solely by private donors who recognize the value of their work.
Pacific Justice Institute
P.O. Box 276600
Sacramento, CA 95827-6600
1-888-305-9129 (outside Sacramento)