This op-ed originally appeared on Townhall.com on March 20, 2008.
Recently a landmark ruling that stunned many parents and could have legal repercussions for families across the country was handed down by a California state appellate court.
Judge H. Walter Croskey wrote a court opinion that declared California children were only allowed to be taught by teachers credentialed by the state. Such a decision was a stark about-face from the previous California policy that provided parents with options in determining how best to educate their children.
A decision such as this has profound ramifications that stretch beyond educational choice, from parental rights to privacy laws.
California parents should be encouraged that the majority of elected officials and government appointees in the state are taking their side. California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell released a statement vowing his department’s continued support of parental rights: “I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents who choose to homeschool that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling, parents still have the right to home school in our state.”
Governor Schwarzenegger also has ensured that if the courts did not overturn the decision upon appeal, the legislature will move to ensure that education choice remains an option in California.
The support of these officials may come as cold comfort to parents in California and concerned activists nationwide, but the decision of the court should not have come as a surprise. Rather, it is simply the most prominent salvo in an increasing trend against parents’ rights that exists under the guise of globalization and the innocuously-named “children’s rights movement.”
It has been nearly 20 years since the United Nations first agreed to codify the Convention of the Rights of the Child into international law and since that time, America has been only one of two member states of the United Nations to have not ratified the Convention.
The California case is a perfect example of why America has not ratified the treaty. The United States Constitution is unique in that many of the rights declared in the U.N. document are explicitly spelled out in our Constitution. The dignity and right to life of every human being is a cornerstone of our democracy. It a great shame that we live in a world where issues such as child soldiers and child pornography exist, and, in some countries, flourish.
However, the best interests of America must come first when we enact domestic policy. The possibility of judicial rulings such as the one that came out of the California court has been noted for several years by numerous experts, ranging from home-schooling advocates to religious-liberty scholars. The ruling has unified many California officials, from the Republican Schwarzenegger to the Democrat O’Connell.
In a state where an estimated 166,000 children are home-schooled, it is encouraging to see elected officials uphold their commitment to the people they represent. It also is vital for voters heading into elections booths this year to be aware of the ramifications of their vote.
In appearances last summer before the National Education Association, Senators Obama and Clinton practically were tripping over themselves in their willingness to promise the NEA that they would do anything in their power to help the union achieve its goals. One of those goals is to force the United States Congress to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The NEA also is applauding this California court decision, publicly reiterating its uncompromising opposition to home schooling.
As the California case teaches us, it is not necessary for America to ratify the Convention in order for its mandates to be enforced upon American families. Three activist judges have single handedly overturned 50-plus years of California policy and threatened the educational stability of countless California school children. It is not an issue that should be taken lightly.