Home schooling will be declared legal in Texas if a suit filed in Ft. Worth in late March succeeds.
In March, 1985, attorney J. Shelby Sharpe filed a class action suit on behalf of all home schooling families in Texas. The suit, filed in state district court in Ft. Worth, asks the state district court to declare home schooling legal under current Texas law, and to issue an injunction against any further home school prosecutions in the state.
HSLDA is one of the named plaintiffs in the case. HSLDA President Michael Farris decided to join the suit for several reasons. He said approximately 25% of the HSLDA’s membership lives in Texas, as well as many other home schoolers who are not members of HSLDA. Also, a good decision for home schooling in a major state such as Texas would have repercussions in others states nationwide, Farris said.
Other named plaintiffs in the suit include a number of Texas families who are home schooling, Christian Liberty Academy, Calvert Schools, and several others. The plaintiffs represent the class of all home schooling families in the state. The one named defendant is the Arlington Independent School District, which represents the class of all Texas school districts.
Specifically, the class action suit asks the court to do one of several things. First, the suit asks the court to declare home schooling legal under present Texas law, defining it as a “private school” under the compulsory attendance statue. If the court does not agree to that, then the suit asks the court to declare the Texas compulsory attendance law void for vagueness, because no one can tell whether home schools are private schools (and therefore legal) or not under the statute. If the court does not accept that, then the suit asks the court to declare that the current law infringes on the parents’ right to free exercise of religion, and their 14th amendment liberty rights to educate their children in a manner they see fit. Last, the suit asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional because it infringes on the parents’ right of privacy under the Constitution.
Shelby Sharpe is seeking a preliminary injunction in the case, to stop all current home school prosecutions, and to prevent future ones from going forward. Sharpe said that many school officials and prosecutors support the injunction, because they want the question answered once and for all whether home schooling is legal or not under Texas law.
Sharpe explained that the Texas law is very vague, saying only that children must attend public or private
school, with little definition as what is a private school. Two state supreme courts(Wisconsin and Georgia) ruled in 1983 that their compulsory attendance laws, worded similarly to Texas law, could not be enforced against home schoolers, because no reasonable person could determine whether home schooling was legal or not under the state laws.
The case should come to trial in Ft. Worth sometime in August, Sharpe said.