Who is Presumptively in Control of a Child’s Education—Parents or the Government?

If you’re a homeschooling parent and you’re not sure of the answer to that question, then you may want to read what is happening in Nebraska that may answer that question and have an impact on your rights.

Eric and Gail Thacker, have five school aged kids.  They did not enroll them into the local public schools as they were home schooling.  After six weeks, charges were filed against the parents and they were found guilty of truancy, a criminal offense, but they were not fined.

Mike Farris, Founder and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), appealed their truancy conviction to clear them of having a criminal record.  Farris argued that the state does not have presumptive rights to force enrollment of kids into the public school system and that it is the responsibility of the parents, not the state to education their children.

They won their appeal, but that was short lived as the prosecutor appealed this court’s decision to the Nebraska Court of Appeals.  In an unusual move, the Nebraska State Supreme Court took the case out of the hands of the Court of Appeals, to hear it themselves.

At the time of this writing, Mike Farris is in the Nebraska State Supreme Court arguing the case on behalf of the Thacker family and all homeschoolers in the nation.  Just prior to the hearing, Farris summed up the case this way:

“What’s at Stake”

“The question that I must wrestle with as I prepare for oral argument is: What is the big principle in this case that justified this move?”

“The prosecutor is trying to establish a legal rule that children are presumptively enrolled in the public schools of Nebraska unless they are excused by the government to attend some alternative school.”

“We contend that the public schools have no prior claim on children. The duty of parents is to see that their children are educated.”

“In short, the central issue in this case is who is presumptively in control of a child’s education—parents or the government?”

State and federal governments have been trying to eradicate homeschooling for years.  The case of the Thacker’s is another one of those attempts.  However, the ruling of the Nebraska State Supreme Court will give strong support to either the state or the parents.  I’m sure that other cases will use this ruling in their judicial arguments in future cases.