Swanson Vs Guthrie


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Swanson Vs Guthrie

  1. 1. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh Prairie View A&M University PUBLIC SCHOOL LAW ADMN 5023 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Professor HYBRID LEARNING Submitted by Rebecca Bechtold, Michele Bickham, and Soul Singh June 22, 2009 1
  2. 2. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh HYBRID LEARNING INTRODUCTION The term hybrid learning has evolved in recent time to incorporate many different definitions. It is currently most often used to refer to a mixed teaching environment where a portion of the class is taught traditionally, with face to face instruction, and a second portion is taught electronically, via online chat rooms and discussions. In the home school setting, hybrid learning refers to teaching the student in the home school setting and also teaching them in the traditional public school setting for a limited number, of often specialized, courses. It can also refer to the religious education given at home and the athletic or elective, secular, education given at school. The aim of many religious based home schooling parents is to limit the contact of their students with negative, secular influences which may interfere with their eternal salvation. For the purpose of this report, we will focus on hybrid learning in the home school setting. Quite often, parents choose to home school their children for a variety of reasons. Once children reach a certain age, especially those looking forward to attending college, parents often feel that some courses (choir, band, foreign languages, and laboratory science courses to name a few) are better taught in the public school setting utilizing available resources. This places school districts in a financial predicament; if the student only attends classes for one or two class periods then the school district is providing services without receiving funding for the student due to attendance and constitutional accountability rules and expectations. School districts also often look to retain students full time due to state constitutional obligations. This report will explore the obligation of the school district to provide educational services. Case One United States Court of Appeals, United States Supreme Court State of Wisconsin v. Jonas Yoder, Wallace Miller, and Adin Yutzy Docket No. 70-110 Opinion: 406 U.S. 205 (1972) LITIGANTS Plaintiff – Appelant: State of Wisconsin, et. al Defendant – Appellee: Jonas Yoder, Wallace Miller, and Adin Yutzy 2
  3. 3. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh BACKGROUND James Yoder and William Miller ,who were members of the Old Order Amish religion, and respondent Adin Yutzy, a member of the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were accused of violating Wisconsin’s compulsory school attendance law which required them to send their children to school until the age of sixteen. All three families resided in Green County, Wisconsin. The respondents refused to send their children to school beyond the eighth grade fearing for the eternal salvation of their children and themselves. The school district ticketed and fined the families because they had not enrolled their children in school for their ninth grade year. The families were charged, tried, and convicted for violating compulsory school attendance and received a fine of five dollars each. The families refuted the charges saying their first and fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. The Wisconsin v Yoder case is repeatedly referenced in home school legal arguments as the only case decided in favor of home school education. FACTS Respondents, members of the Old Order Amish religion and the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were convicted of violating Wisconsin's compulsory school attendance law (which requires a child's school attendance until age 16) by declining to send their children to public or private school after they had graduated from the eighth grade. The evidence showed that the Amish provide continuing informal vocational education to their children designed to prepare them for life in the rural Amish community. The evidence also showed that respondents sincerely believed that high school attendance was contrary to the Amish religion and way of life, and that they would endanger their own salvation and that of their children by complying with the law. The State Supreme Court sustained respondents' claim that application of the compulsory school attendance law to them violated their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. DECISION There is no doubt as to the power of a State, having a high responsibility for education of its citizens, to impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education. Providing public schools ranks at the very apex of the function of a State. Yet even this paramount responsibility was, in Pierce, made to yield to the right of parents to provide an equivalent education in a privately operated system. There the Court held that Oregon's statute compelling attendance in a public school from age eight to age 16 unreasonably interfered with the interest of parents in directing the rearing of their offspring, including their education in church-operated schools. As that case suggests, the values of parental direction of the religious upbringing and education of their children in their early and formative years have a high place in our society. Thus, a State's interest in universal education, however highly we rank it, is not totally free from a balancing process when it impinges on fundamental rights and interests, such as those specifically protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the traditional interest of parents with respect to the religious upbringing of their children so long as they "prepare [them] for additional obligations." It follows that in order for Wisconsin to compel school attendance beyond the eighth grade against a claim that such attendance interferes with the practice of a legitimate religious 3
  4. 4. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh belief, it must appear either that the State does not deny the free exercise of religious belief by its requirement, or that there is a state interest of sufficient magnitude to override the interest claiming protection under the Free Exercise Clause.... The essence of all that has been said and written on the subject is that only those interests of the highest order and those not otherwise served can overbalance legitimate claims to the free exercise of religion. We can accept it as settled, therefore, that, however strong the State's interest in universal compulsory education, it is by no means absolute to the exclusion or subordination of all other interests. DICTA Contrary to the suggestion of the dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, our holding today in no degree depends on the assertion of the religious interest of the child as contrasted with that of the parents. It is the parents who are subject to prosecution here for failing to cause their children to attend school, and it is their right of free exercise, not that of their children, that must determine Wisconsin's power to impose criminal penalties on the parent. The dissent argues that a child who expresses a desire to attend public high school in conflict with the wishes of his parents should not be prevented from doing so. There is no reason for the Court to consider that point since it is not an issue in the case. The children are not parties to this litigation. The State has at no point tried this case on the theory that respondents were preventing their children from attending school against their expressed desires, and indeed the record is to the contrary. The State's position from the outset has been that it is empowered to apply its compulsory-attendance law to Amish parents in the same manner as to other parents - that is, without regard to the wishes of the child. That is the claim we reject today. For the reasons stated we hold, with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, that the First and Fourteenth Amendments prevent the State from compelling respondents to cause their children to attend formal high school to age 16. Affirmed. MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting in part. I agree with the Court that the religious scruples of the Amish are opposed to the education of their children beyond the grade schools, yet I disagree with the Court's conclusion that the matter is within the dispensation of parents alone. The Court's analysis assumes that the only interests at stake in the case are those of the Amish parents on the one hand, and those of the State on the other. The difficulty with this approach is that, despite the Court's claim, the parents are seeking to vindicate not only their own free exercise claims, but also those of their high-school-age children. It is the future of the student, not the future of the parents, that is imperiled by today's decision. If a parent keeps his child out of school beyond the grade school, then the child will be forever barred from entry into the new and amazing world of diversity that we have today. The child may decide that that is the preferred course, or he may rebel. It is the student's judgment, not his parents', that is essential if we are to give full meaning to what we have said about the Bill of Rights and of the right of students to be masters of their own destiny. If he is harnessed to the Amish way of life by those in authority over him and if his education is truncated, his entire life may be stunted and deformed. The child, therefore, should be given an opportunity to be heard before the State gives the exemption which we honor today. The views of the two children in question were not canvassed by the Wisconsin courts. The matter should be explicitly reserved so that new hearings can be held on remand of the case. 4
  5. 5. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh IMPLICATIONS Wisconsin v. Yoder interpreted the Free Exercise Clause by constructing a three-part test intended to balance state educational interests against the interests of religious freedom. This balancing test marked the height of the move away from the belief-action doctrine established in the nineteenth century. The decision also impacted debates regarding parental control of their children's education. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment has posed a challenge to those courts faced with conflicts between religion and the government. The clause, which protects the free exercise of religion, fails to define religion, leaves its protective parameters unclear, and invites a wide range of interpretations. Interpreting free exercise becomes especially tricky--and especially important--in a culturally diverse nation such as the United States, when members of a religious minority seek exemption from state or federal laws because of their religious beliefs. The Court used a three-part test to decide the case. First, it asked whether the religious beliefs in question were sincerely held. Secondly, it asked whether state law did in fact seriously burden those beliefs. After answering in the affirmative to the first two parts, the Court went on to consider the balance of the state's interests against the free exercise interests of the Amish. It determined that in order to rule for the state, state interests had to override religious interests, and that there must be no other way for state interests to be met other than to impinge upon religious freedom. Here the Court found that the state's interest in educating children to be responsible, productive citizens did not override the Amish parents' right to protect their community's religious beliefs by keeping their children out of high school. The decision in Wisconsin v. Yoder brought together two areas of legal interpretation: parental control over education and the free exercise of religion. Between 1923 and 1927 a series of Supreme Court decisions--Meyer v .Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Farrington v. Tokushige--established parents' constitutional right to exert control over their children's education, though strictly in a secular context. Yoder introduced a religious dimension to that debate. Case Two United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit. ANNIE SWANSON, et al, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. GUTHRIE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. I-L, Defendants-Appellees No. 96-6354 5
  6. 6. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh LITIGANTS Plaintiffs – Appellants: ANNIE SWANSON, by and through her parents and next friends, DENNIS SWANSON and LUCY SWANSON Defendant – Appellee: GUTHRIE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT BACKGROUND Annie has been home-schooled by her parents since she started school. When Annie reached the seventh grade, her parents decided that she would benefit by taking a few classes at the public school. Annie's parents believed the public school's ability to teach certain classes (particularly foreign-language classes, vocal music, and some science classes) was superior to their instructional capability in those areas, and that attending some classes at the public school would better prepare Annie for college. The Guthrie School Board policy is as follows: "It is the policy of the Guthrie Board of Education that all students enrolling in Guthrie Public Schools must do so on a full-time basis. Full-time basis shall be defined as attending classes for the full instructional day within the public school system or in conjunction with another state accredited institution such as vocational- technical school or a college or university for concurrent enrollment. The only exceptions to this policy shall be for fifth- year seniors and special education students whose IEP's require variations of student schedules." Annie's parents spoke to the then-superintendent of schools and received permission for her to attend two seventh-grade classes for the last nine weeks of the school year. She attended those classes, performed very well in them, and caused no disruption to the school system. Annie then pre-registered for two classes for the eighth grade. Before she began school, however, Defendant Bowman was hired as the new superintendent. He refused to allow Annie to attend the eighth grade on a part-time basis, and told her parents they would need permission from the school board. He also made some statements that Mrs. Swanson interpreted as criticism of Christian home-schoolers. He Board confirmed their policy but did add the following sentence: "In the event the State Department of Education advises us that part-time students can be counted for state aid purposes, the Board will reconsider this policy." The board's president also made a public statement concerning the issue, noting the board's respect for the right of parents to home-school their children, and indicating that the basis for the board's decision was simply the fact that part- time students cannot be counted for state financial-aid purposes. In April 1995, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit, alleging various constitutional violations and a state-law claim. Following a motion to dismiss by Defendants, a motion for summary judgment by Plaintiffs, and a hearing on Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. 6
  7. 7. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh FACTS In August 1994 the school board held a regularly-scheduled meeting at which the Swansons were allowed to present their position. The board deferred a decision on adopting a policy concerning part-time attendance, but did vote to require Annie to register as a full-time student if she wished to attend eighth-grade classes before such a policy could be adopted. Following this meeting, attorneys representing Annie and her parents wrote to the school board threatening a lawsuit and requesting an opportunity to address the board. A special meeting of the board was held in October 1994, at which the board reiterated its previously-adopted policy. The board also added the following sentence to the policy: "In the event the State Department of Education advises us that part-time students can be counted for state aid purposes, the Board will reconsider this policy." The board's president also made a public statement concerning the issue, noting the board's respect for the right of parents to home-school their children, and indicating that the basis for the board's decision was simply the fact that part-time students cannot be counted for state financial-aid purposes. Pursuant to the board's policy, Annie was not allowed to take classes of her choice from the public school during the 1994-95 school year, or to otherwise attend the public school on a part-time basis. DECISION The claimed constitutional right Plaintiffs wish to establish in this case is the right of parents to send their children to public school on a part-time basis, and to pick and choose which courses their children will take from the public school. Plaintiffs would have this right override the local school board's explicit decision to disallow such part-time attendance (except where the school would receive state funding for the part-time attendee). However, decisions as to how to allocate scarce resources, as well as what curriculum to offer or require, are uniquely committed to the discretion of local school authorities. Plaintiffs maintain that they do not wish to alter the curriculum offered by Defendants, and that they are therefore in a different position than the parents in other cases who wanted to exempt their children from certain classes or requirements. Plaintiffs do wish to exempt Annie from certain classes-they simply wish to exempt her from more classes. We see no difference of constitutional dimension between picking and choosing one class your child will not attend, and picking and choosing three, four, or five classes your child will not attend. The right to direct one's child's education does not protect either alternative. Parents do not have a Constitutional right to control every aspect of their child’s education. DICTA Plaintiffs have attempted to portray this case as one involving religious discrimination against Christian home-schoolers. The record provided to the district court and this court, however, indicates that it involves only financial distinctions between certain part-time students and all home-schoolers, secular or religious, as well as private-school students. Since this case involved only a neutral rule of general applicability, it was sufficient for Defendants to prove a reasonable relationship between the part-time-attendance policy and a legitimate purpose of the school board. Plaintiffs have not argued that Defendants failed to meet this low threshold, and it 7
  8. 8. Bechtold, Bickham, & Singh is clear that Defendants have satisfied it. Therefore, the district court's decision dismissing all of Plaintiffs' claims is AFFIRMED. We note that Plaintiffs do not appear to have made a sufficient evidentiary showing below to raise an issue of fact concerning the neutrality of the part-time-attendance policy. It is undisputed that the only exceptions to the policy constitute categories of students that are counted for state-aid purposes; that is, if the state counts a part-time student, such as a student enrolled in a vocational-technical program as well as the high school, as a full-time student for purposes of doling out educational funds, the policy grants an exception to the full-time- attendance requirement. This is not discrimination on the basis of religion, but on the basis of funding. In addition, it is undisputed that no school board member made any derogatory comments about Christian home-schoolers or home-schoolers of any kind, unlike the city councilors in Lukumi Babalu Aye. Finally, the fact that Annie is the only student who has to this point requested the privilege of attending public school part-time does not mean that the policy was aimed solely at her. The school board expressly discussed the fact that the problem was the precedent that would be set, not that Annie's attendance alone would cause difficulties. Perhaps because the neutrality issue was not raised below, Plaintiffs failed to make any evidentiary showing that the adoption of the policy was motivated by a discriminatory motive of any kind. IMPLICATIONS It was feared that Annie's request, if granted, could set a precedent allowing other home- schooled children as well as private-school students to use the public school's facilities on an as- wanted basis, without a corresponding increase in state financial aid. This would result in a hardship for the districts in attempting to allocate scarce funds. 8