May 13, 2003

Maine Principals Association's Position On Homeschoolers Violates Law

On Monday, May 12, 2003, the federal district court in Portland, Maine, issued a disappointing ruling that the Pelletier family could not participate in interscholastic sports through a private Christian school. Instead they must go through their local public school if they wanted to take part.

Home School Legal Defense Association had argued that although states are not required to allow homeschoolers to play interscholastic sports, that once Maine did so, it was required to permit both public and private school options. We believe that this follows the logic of the landmark case Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925, which held that states could not force parents to send their children only to a public school. Unfortunately, the judge held that Pierce did not extend far enough to protect the Pelletiers.

The court ruled that the family's right to choose private education was not burdened, because they had the option to either enroll in a private school or go to public school if they wanted their children to participate in sports.

"This ruling regrettably sets up a two-tier system in Maine," said James Mason, Litigation Counsel for HSLDA. "Parents who have religious convictions against sending their children to public school for any purpose have been outlawed from participation in interscholastic sports through a school that is compatible with their beliefs. Those with no such conviction are free to sign their children up with the local school."

The Pelletiers are considering whether to appeal this decision.

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