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A California appellate court ruled last week that a family's religious convictions do not guarantee a right to homeschool their children.

"California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey for California's Second District Court of Appeal.

The parents, identified in court papers only by the last initial L, but identified by several news organizations as Phillip and Mary Long, told the court that their religious beliefs for homeschooling "are based on biblical teachings and principles." But that's not enough for an exemption from California education requirements, the court ruled February 28.

"Such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to homeschool his or her child," Croskey wrote.

The court ruled that minor children must attend a public school unless the child attends a private school or is taught by a teacher with a valid state teaching license.

"This case probably sends that kind of chilling message for people who are trying to homeschool legally," said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center.

Mike Smith, president of the Virginia-based Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), estimates that 60,000 families who homeschool in California could be affected by the decision, because many parents do not have teachers' licenses.

"Ten percent or less would be able to homeschool under this interpretation," Smith said. "If a school district got hold of this opinion, they could attempt to drag a family into court."

Families who homeschool their children in California are required to file a private school affidavit with state regulators or to enroll their ...

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