Christmas came early last year to the home-schooling families of Lynn, Massachusetts. In December, the commonwealth's top court ruled that a law giving public school officials expansive rights to visit home-school households was unconstitutional.The decision in Michael Brunelle, et al. v. Lynn Public Schools ended seven years of legal battles. The court ruled that the school district's policy--which essentially allowed officials to enter a home-schooler's residence at will--violated federal and commonwealth protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"This is a big victory for home schooling not just in Massachusetts but across the country," said Michael Farris, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, which served as the plaintiffs' counsel. The association's main fear was that a decision in favor of the school district would have given a green light to similar policies in other parts of the country. By Farris' count, school districts in about a dozen states were likely to adopt similar requirements if the Lynn school district prevailed. Indeed, other states, including Rhode Island, New York, and South Dakota, have already tried to pass similar laws.
"We've picked them off one by one, normally through legislative means," Farris said. "We've used the legal system successfully at times, but other times it's been the predicate for legislative action."
Steven Pustell, whose family was one of the two represented in the lawsuit, was thrilled with the outcome. "It reaffirms the independence of home-schooling parents to raise their children the way they [see fit], without unwarranted government intrusion," he said.