New Jersey Superior Court shocked by New Jersey homeschooling laws
The Superior Court of New Jersey is shocked. I'm left shaking my head. In an odd opinion delivered in response to a disagreement between divorced parents concerning the education of their seven children, the justices express a clear concern for the neglect of the state in the education of homeschooled children. According to New Jersey law, it appears that homeschooling is not regulated, and the homeschooling parent must only provide "equivalent" instruction. This apparently only affects a parent once an accusation has been made, and then the burden of proof is on the state.

The court cites Justice Schettini's 1965 opinion (State v. Vaughn),
As in all cases of judicial interpretation, the cardinal rule is that we should find a sensible, workable view of legislation if the language at all permits that.
From this, the Superior Court reasons that there must be equivalent rules and regulations in place to monitor homeschooling families. Bemoaning the lack of state oversight, the court states (pdf, emphasis in original):
...In questioning by this court, the mother made it clear that in ten years she had been home schooling the children, no one from any Board of Education in Montclair (where they lived until October 2006) ever visited the home. Ms. Hamilton never went to any school or board office, no lesson plan was ever reviewed and no progress report or testing of the children was ever performed. This is shocking to the court. In this day and age where we seek to protect children from harm and sexual predators, so many children are left unsupervised. It is further shocking to this court that in September, 2001 the New Jersey Department of Education published answers to frequently asked questions about home schooling as a guide to local school districts that listed the following:
  1. Parents/Guardians are not required by law to notify their public school district of their intention to educate the child elsewhere than at school.
  2. The law does not require or authorize the local board of education to review and approve the curriculum or program of a child educated elsewhere than at school.
  3. No certification to teach is required to be held by the parent.
  4. No standardized test(s) are administered to the children.

In today's threatening world, where we seek to protect children from abuse, not just physical, but also educational abuse, how can we not monitor the educational welfare of all our children? A child in New Jersey, who recently was found unfed and locked in a a putrid bedroom was allegedly "home schooled" and because no one, such as a teacher or nurse, was able to observe any abuse in a school setting, it went undiscovered. [source] Because he was not registered or supervised, no one ever knew he existed. This is not what "no child left behind" intended for our children. Even the No Child Left Behind Act, 20 U.S.C.S. §6301 (2001), is silent on the this issue...
The court goes on to outline its vision for how to regulate homeschools to ensure "equivalent instruction," including registering with the school district, submitting curriculum, parent training and regular testing. I think, perhaps, the coming crisis in citizenship is already here. How well would these justices fare against college seniors in a test of our founding principles? I wonder if they attended one of the handful of American universities requiring a course in the history of our Constitution? Or if perhaps their opinions on the relationship between the individual and the state were formed during one of those one day programs now required by federal law?

Update: My wannabe attorney friend, Jodi, rightly questioned the validity of this decision given a few anomalies in the document. So I dug around a bit and found that it is linked from the New Jersey judiciary's website which includes the following statement:
Please Note: Decisions are made available for six weeks from the date posted for the convenience of attorneys and litigants, have not been approved for publication by the Committee on Opinions, and thus may not be cited as legal precedent pursuant to R.1:36-3.
So, fortunately, this shall not enter into legal precedent as it currently stands. But I still wonder how these judges can make such an odd ruling.

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