Law / Rights

Is Homeschooling a Fundamental Human Right?

I was a homeschooler. Well, sort of. I was more of a homeschool wannabe. Growing up in a small town with life centered around the church, I found many of my best friends were all homeschooled as was the hip thing to do in the church setting. I did start out homeschooled but by the 3rd grade my mom got frustrated with me just doodling during math class and sent me off to public school. By the 9th grade one my good friends, who was a homeschooler, convinced me that homeschool was a ton of fun and way better than public school, so I again gave it a try. For me that was a terrible mistake as my 9th grade year was more marked by Zelda: The Ocarina of Time than Geometry. Sure enough by the 10th grade I was back to public school. Despite my own bad experience with homeschooling ( due to my uncompromising laziness), I know homeschooling worked well for many of my friends. All of my homeschool friends are now college graduates and are now pillars of their local communities with careers such as: police officers, film producers, nurses, game wardens, oil rig safety technicians, and ironically many of them became Public School teachers. Though I turned out to be a failed homeschooler, I know the States of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas have been major beneficiaries of the homeschooling education system. However, what might have happened if their parents were never given the option to have homeschooled?

My friends an I on the way to the Homeschool Prom...no joke

My friends and I on the way to the Homeschool Prom…no joke

This is the unfortunate dilemma of the Romeike family as featured in the video above. While I strongly recommend you watch the above video to supplement this article, I’ll give you a quick run-down of the Romeike family’s situation. The Romeikes are German immigrants who fled to the United States from their home country in order to be able to homeschool their children. Germany has banned the ability of its people to homeschool since World War II. The Romeikes are devout Christians and believe that homeschooling is the best way to raise and educate their kids. In 2010, the Romeikes were granted Asylum in the United States under the theory that their fundamental right to freedom of religion was violated and also because they were a suspect class of discrimination as a homeschooling family. However, recently the Obama administration’s Department of Justice overturned the ruling that a right to homeschool is a protected fundamental right. The case is now being appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the only higher authority would be the United States Supreme Court, which may be where it ends up rightfully so.

Under U.S. immigration law, a refugee may be granted asylum if they meet the following four factors as laid out in the case Matter of Acosta: 1.) the alien must have a fear of persecution; 2.) the fear of persecution must be well-founded; 3.) the persecution must be made on one of five protected grounds, as follows: a.) race b.)religion c.) nationality d.) political opinion e.) membership in a particular social group; and lastly 4.) the alien must be unwilling or unable to return to his former country without fear of persecution. Some obvious examples of refugees would be individuals from countries like Rwanda during genocide like conditions but also may occur in examples where a person is not free to worship their religion freely in the former country. A recent famous example includes the case The Matter of -C-Y-Z where a woman from China fled to the United States to escape mandatory abortions from the Chinese government. But the bottom line for such decisions was pointed out by the court in Matter of Acosta as,

“Each of the grounds describes persecution aimed at an immutable characteristic: a characteristic that is either beyond the power of an individual to change or is so fundamental to individual identity or conscience it ought not be required to change.”

So the question for the Romeike family is whether the right to educate your own children in the manner you wish is “so fundamental to individual identity or conscience it ought not be required to change.” As argued before, the Romeikes’ wish to homeschool descends directly from their religious beliefs as was argued before. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court extended this fundamental right to U.S. Citizens (not immigrants) in the 1925 case Pierce v. Society of SistersIn that Supreme Court case, the Court held that under the 14th Amendment Due Process clause that children were not “mere creatures of the state” and parents are entitled to the liberty of deciding how best to educate their own children. Fortunately this case law is firmly grounded now in our legal system as the precedent in over 70 other Supreme Court cases. Therefore to overturn this decision now would be to topple many other cases like a Jenga tower.

So it seems to me, having already recognized that homeschooling is a fundamental right for US citizens, it is not a stretch that in conjunction with the Matter of Acosta language that the Romeike family ought to be granted Asylum. The ramifications would be monumental as educating your own children in the manner you wish would thereby be recognized not only as an American Right but a Universal Human Right.

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