A California judge recently turned thousands of parents homeschooling their children into outlaws.
The case involved one parent who was demonstrably doing a bad job of homeschooling -- and should have been held accountable by the court.
Yet, instead of deciding that one case, the judge ruled that all California homeschoolers were incompetent -- thereby stripping parents of their fundamental right to educate their children, not only in reading, writing and arithmetic, but in spiritual, moral and social values as well.
The ruling was so outrageous -- so at variance with the historic principle that families have the basic right to raise and teach their children without unnecessary interference from the state -- that no one took it seriously.
That changed quickly, however, after the California Court of Appeals agreed with the ruling -- in effect, striking down homeschooling statewide.
Most parents who homeschool their kids do so for two reasons. First, because they think public schools aren't getting the job done. Second, they want to remove their children from the often pernicious environment of drugs, sex, violence and immorality that infest too many public schools.
A court system that orders parents to send their children to such disorderly institutions has way overstepped its bounds. Besides, if the court was to be consistent in its ruling, it would ban the state's entire public school system because one school was doing a lousy job of educating.
In truth, there are a lot more public schools flunking teaching standards than are homeschoolers. Studies show that homeschooled pupils, as a group, have a higher graduation rate, do better on SAT scores and go on to college in greater numbers than do public school students.
The public outrage that followed the appeals court ruling was so overwhelming that the court has decided to take another look at it. There apparently are some activist judicial rulings that even notoriously liberal Californians won't tolerate.
State lawmakers are already moving on legislation to rescue the homeschool movement. Moreover, the appeals court is reconsidering the case which doesn't necessarily mean it will change its ruling. But with public sentiment so heavily in favor of the homeschoolers, it's probably a good bet that if the lower court does reaffirm its dreadful decision, that the state's Supreme Court will not.
Aside from the merits of the case, which greatly favors the homeschoolers, there is the damage done to public confidence in the judicial system when bad rulings like this are handed down from the bench.