Bulletin #34             Parental Authority Usurped                             08/10/04


Did you know? Slowly the public school system is usurping the authority of parents over every aspect of a child’s life.


Through the years, people slowly but surely have been convinced that the public school educators and other school "experts" are those who know best how to teach children, when nothing could be further from the truth. It is a mindset that is the problem. Parents are allowing their responsibilities of child rearing to be taking over by the government schools as they abdicate those responsibilities in favor of convenience. Parents no longer have to provide breakfast for their children, or talk to them about sex or drugs or other important issues. The school can do it for them.


Families are learning to defer authority to outside "experts" rather than using a little common sense and trusting their instincts on how to handle family issues. We used to be a country where parents were the ones who had complete authority regarding the rearing and care of their children. Now we are allowing schools to give our children advice and education on all sorts of social issues, and sometimes they even distribute supplies like condoms, deodorant and feminine products.  Some schools have even been so bold as to vaccinate or do psychological testing without parental consent. Most public schools provide vision and hearing screening and dental and dermatological checks and others also mandate scoliosis screening at appropriate grade levels. Some parents even welcome this because then they do not have to pay for, or arrange, medical check-ups and so on. One must seriously reflect on the problems caused by yielding parental responsibilities to the state. It is a major issue to be contemplated.


People may point to this as merely an extension of the notion of in loco parentis. NHELD will be issuing a future bulletin to discuss this concept in more depth. For now, suffice it to say, that traditionally in common law, and still today, unemancipated minors lack some of the most fundamental rights of self-determination-including even the right of liberty in its narrow sense (i.e., the right to come and go at will). They are subject, even as to their physical freedom, to the control of their parents or guardians. See 59 Am. Jur. 2d §10 (1987). When parents place minor children in private or government schools for their education, the teachers and administrators of those schools stand in loco parentis over the children entrusted to them. In fact, the tutor or schoolmaster is the very prototype of that status. As Blackstone describes it, a parent "may . . . delegate part of his parental authority, during his life, to the tutor or schoolmaster of his child; who is then in loco parentis, and has such a portion of the power of the parent committed to his charge, viz. that of restraint and correction, as may be necessary to answer the purposes for which he is employed." 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 441 (1769). 515 U.S. 646; Vernonia School Dist. v. Acton (1995). However - the bottom line regarding in loco parentis is that it should only apply to the educational needs of the child. That has been held in case law. Public school officials have the power to act in loco parentis only with regard to educational matters affecting the public school. Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646, 656, 115 S. Ct. 2386, 132 L. Ed. 2d 564; 1995 U.S. LEXIS 4275(1995). See Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010, 87 S. Ct. 1817 (196); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 22, 92 L. Ed. 1161, 68 S. Ct. 836 (1948)


So what has been going on in the government schools? Public school educators are taught in colleges across the country that there is but one way to teach children, the way the college professors are telling them to teach. They have charge of children's education, but management of other aspects of children's lives have also come into play. Over time, we have allowed social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, pupil personnel directors and so on, to be full time employees within the public schools. What is the job of these employees? Some people view it as an act of surrogate parenting or even more insidious, that the job of these employees is to overrule the authority of parents.


Children are told to come to the social worker, psychologist or guidance counselor with any problems. Children are told not to tell their parents of the problems they are having, particularly if those problems have to do with sexual encounters. Children are told how to properly have sex, how to properly use condoms, and not to talk of religion or moral values. Children are taught that almost everything that another person does socially is to be accepted. Of course, children are also told what to say, especially what not to say, and how to think about society and their own parents. Insidiously these employees also periodically require the children to fill out questionnaires inquiring about intensely private matters involving the family. As a result, all sorts of information about the family is known to these school officials. And what purpose does this serve? It is primarily for the purpose of utilizing it to the advantage of the school system in controlling the actions of the children, and thus, the family.


So what does this all have to do with homeschoolers? Quite a bit, we'd say, because homeschoolers may be caught in the net of charter and e-school legislation, or even private school legislation. Do you know how many statutes have been passed that essentially allow public schools to have control over the child and the child’s education despite the fact that the child may not be enrolled in the school system? Far, far too many. Of course the public schools should not have the authority to determine the education of children who are not enrolled in their system, yet all across the country that is exactly what is happening, as homeschoolers are dealing with oversight and regulation by the state.


Even as this is being written there is legislation in Illinois which will mandate the creation of policies dealing with psychological testing of all children from birth to age 18 as well as pregnant women. This tyrannical type of legislation must be stopped as it continues to lead us down the path of government control over all aspects of our personal lives. We should not allow the concept of in loco parentis to invade our own homes.


It is time for all parents to wake up and look at what has been happening and to take back their right to control the education and upbringing of their own children. We encourage you to go look at the statutes and regulations in your state. Know your existing rights. If you believe they are far too intrusive, contact your state legislator and tell him there is a better way. Tell him that free parents dedicated to the education of their children will result in more success than ever has been attained in a public school. Tell him that an individualized educational program delivered in a one on one tutorial manner with flexibility of time and course content is vastly superior to the cookie cutter, one size fits all curriculum of any public school system. Tell them that as we are trusted to be law abiding citizens and that we should also be trusted to care for and educate our children without government interference. If there is articulable proof that we are not doing our job then we can be held accountable to the laws which already address neglect. Tell him to repeal any and all repressive legislation that takes away your right as a parent to instruct your child in freedom and with autonomy. Tell him enough is enough. Tell him that you want your freedom back.


Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense.

 www.nheld.com or email : info@nheld.com

Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD – imjfaron@sbcglobal.net