A judge has ordered that a French family must be allowed to homeschool following a denial of permission in Toulouse, reports Liberté éducation, a homeschooling organization representing scores of families in France.
Thousands of French families have been barred from homeschooling by low-level education officials, following implementation of a law passed by the French National Assembly in 2021.
Home education used to be a right in France. But the new law, proposed by President Emmanuel Macron, permits homeschooling only if a family fits into one of four exemption categories: (1) the best interests of the child, (2) health or disability concerns, (3) participation in intensive sports or artistic activities, or (4) homelessness or remoteness from school.
Children already being homeschooled were grandfathered under the law and did not have to seek authorization. But students as young as age 3 who had not previously been homeschooled were required to receive authorization from local authorities, who have been refusing most of the new homeschool applications.
Standing up for Their Rights
Liberté éducation, with the support of HSLDA, has been fighting since the law was proposed and advocating in courts at all levels for the right of families to homeschool.
The Minister of Education, Pap Ndiaye, acknowledged the problem of excessive refusals in a session with French legislators. At an August 2 hearing, Fabienne Colbec, a deputy of the National Assembly, asked Ndiaye about the many refusals of new homeschoolers.
The minister stated that only 53% of the requests for homeschooling based on the best interest of the child were approved. Liberté éducation reported that 98% of homeschool families have historically passed academic assessments, which indicates that the goal of the draconian law was never about protecting the educational interests of children.
Minister Ndiaye explained that local authorities had received many requests and were trying to review them, but that a national effort was needed to make sure that the response of authorities in various places was consistent, promising to look into the matter further.
The latest court victory offers hope that families whose applications to homeschool have been rejected may be able to obtain relief from local courts.
A judge of the Toulouse Administrative Court ordered local authorities to issue authorization for a family of six to homeschool. After reviewing the family’s educational plan, the judge stated that that the family had complied with the law and that authorities were wrong to refuse their application to homeschool their 3-year-old child.
Liberté éducation states that the family are “very happy and terribly relieved by the news. They feel that they can now breath calmly as the new school year approaches.”
This judge’s order shows that there is at least one judge who understands the problem and is willing to issue an order correcting local bureaucratic overreach. We hope many more will follow this judge’s well-reasoned opinion.
More Work to Do
The French law is wrong in requiring parents to seek permission from local authorities. I hope that the current disaster of thousands of families being refused their right to homeschool will show the National Assembly that they need to repeal this misguided and repressive law.
Parents must be respected as their children’s primary educational decision-makers. While different jurisdictions will impose varying levels of oversight, no free, self-governing society may legitimately impose a presumptive ban on home education, as France has done, or subject its families to arbitrary and capricious bureaucratic power.
The French National Assembly and the Ministry of Education have created a nationwide problem. It owes the homeschool population of France more respect and should take immediate steps to amend the law to correct its error. HSLDA is glad to stand with Liberté éducation and the homeschooling community of France in support of their freedom