Third Circuit Upholds Lower Court on Homeschooling Law

The March 2008 edition of Education News reported on state-wide litigation involving a challenge that the School Code’s provisions regarding oversight of homeschooling families violated the federal constitutional and state religious liberty rights of the families.  As reported, the U.S. Western District Court granted summary judgment for the school districts, and held that there was no First or Fourteenth Amendment violation or violation of the Pennsylvania Freedom Protection Act (RFPA). 

The families appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  In August, the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court’s findings that the compulsory education and portfolio submission and review portions of the School Code did not violate any rights protected by the Federal Constitution.  The Court specifically held that the School Code did not infringe the family’s religious liberties by imposing requirements on homeschooling parents and students. 

The Third Circuit transferred to the state courts the question of whether or not the School Code provisions violate Pennsylvania statutory law.  Pennsylvania’s RFPA has not yet been interpreted by any state appellate court.  Since the case raises a new question of state law, the Third Circuit found that it was more appropriate for the state court to consider the issue. 

Counsel for the homeschooling families have indicated that they will seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Therefore, this matter is far from concluded, and we will continue to provide updates in future editions of the Education News. 

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