Monday, August 12, 2013

A Student's Fight to Attend School Against His Parents' Will

Consistent with the summer of school choice news, another interesting story just came out of Virginia. Virginia has an extremely lenient home school provision that exempts parents who home school for religious reasons from all state oversight.  No records, no transcripts, no test scores and no proof of instruction.  Now Josh Powell, a teenager, wants to go to public school, but his parents won't enroll him.  Apparently, he asked local school officials to let him enroll, arguing that he was learning so little at home.  According to him, he didn't know how to write an essay, didn't know South Africa was a country, and couldn’t solve basic math problems.

This case highlights what I have always felt was missing from the Supreme Court's seminal decision in Wisconsin v. Yoder, in which the Court held that the Amish's interest in exempting their children from high school education outweighed the interests of the state.  In Yoder, the Court ignored the interests of the child and the possibility that they would be at odds with the parents.  The Court reasoned that the child was not a party in the case and, thus, it did not address the issue.  But of course, a child's interests are always at stake when determining the education he or she will recieve.

For more on the current dispute, see here.  Presumably, Powell's only recourse will be legal.  It would be interesting to see how a court balances his interest in education against his parents' statutory and constitutional right to control his upbringing.


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