Invoking civil rights heroes of the past, advocates appeared last week in France’s supreme court to challenge newly enacted restrictions of homeschooling.
Three national homeschool organizations represented by six lawyers faced off against a single attorney representing the national Ministry of Education before an administrative judge of the Conseil d’État on May 3. Leaders from these groups asked that homeschool regulations recently announced by the ministry be suspended pending a trial on their merits.
During the two-and-a-half-hour emergency hearing, the presiding judge questioned homeschooling parents and, according to some present, appeared sympathetic to at least some of the problems with the law that parents highlighted.
One question dealt with the rule that officials will only accept homeschool applications during April and May.
“What do you think of the requirement to only be able to submit applications for homeschooling during that time frame?” the judge asked parents.
“My child is not a calendar,” one of the parents reportedly replied, explaining that sometimes children learn best on their own individual schedules and that could be outside of the prescribed time frame for applying to homeschool.
In fact, there are many reasons why children might switch to homeschooling in the middle of a school year or follow a schedule that differs from the routine of traditional schools. A student may leave a school to avoid harassment or bullying, for example. And a student with special health needs may have to schedule learning around medical treatments.
Lawyers for the homeschool organizations said that it was unusual for judges to be so involved in such hearings.
According to those present, the lawyer representing the Ministry of Education became visibly upset at hearing some of the arguments raised by the homeschoolers.
“I have two children myself,” the lawyer reportedly said. “I send them to school. What is the problem with having to follow the law?” When responding to the judge’s questions about the rationale behind the new restrictions, the lawyer repeatedly responded, “that’s just the way it is.”
Homeschooling advocates hope that the judge will suspend the entire set of rules and instruct the Ministry of Education to go back and start over. At a minimum, they hope that the court will identify specific points that appear to be without legal support. These include the narrow time frame during which families may apply to homeschool and the requirement that parents have formal credentials in order to teach their children.
Even if the judge does not rule in favor of the homeschoolers, the trial will continue.
Days before the hearing some homeschoolers took to social media to call for peaceful “civil disobedience” to the new regulations. Former public school teachers Marjorie and Ramin Ferrangi, who now homeschool their son, posted a video saying that they “refused to submit to the new prior authorization regime.” They urged others to “follow in the footsteps of many historical figures” who helped advance freedom, invoking, among others, American civil rights activist Rosa Parks and Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. The video had nearly 70,000 views as of May 9, 2022.
“We must stand up against Macron’s attack on our freedom and his using us as scapegoats for separatism and extreme Islam,” Ramin said, explaining that research clearly shows that homeschooling is not a threat to society and does not deserve such hostility from the government.
Freedom at Stake
The court hearing follows years of legal action seeking to protect and advance freedom by the homeschooling community in France. HSLDA stands solidly with French homeschoolers and is assisting the movement with material and legal support.
Homeschooling has been recognized by statute in France since 1882.
The freedom to homeschool in Europe is under great threat as several countries have taken official action to restrict home education. This progression sets a bad example for other countries where homeschooling is new and developing. HSLDA affirms the right of all parents to be able to homeschool without unreasonable government intrusion, and we commend our French brothers and sisters for taking resolute action to defend their rights.