This afternoon, the California Assembly Committee on Education met to discuss Assembly Bill 2756. Originally, AB 2756 would have required the compilation and dissemination of separate lists of all private schools with six or more students and five or fewer students in California, and would have required the inspection of all included schools for compliance with fire safety building codes applicable to public schools. This listing would have included private homes where parents decided to homeschool their children. As previously discussed, AB 2756 not only threatened the Fourth Amendment rights of California parents, but threatened the future operation of home schools in California. In a comment letter we prepared, but ultimately did not submit for reasons explained below, we explain in detail the unconstitutional nature of these proposed warrantless searches. Perhaps hoping to avoid further controversy, the bill’s text was modified to remove the offending language. But the portion imposing a whole new bevy of reporting requirements for private citizens remains.
When I arrived at the California Capitol, the line of those hoping to participate in the hearing was already out the door. Luckily, I was able to find a place to sit in the gallery to observe.
When the hearing began, Assembly Member Medina, the bill’s sponsor, rose and addressed the members and the public. Admitting that the purpose behind the AB 2756 was an attempt to prevent horrific incidents like what occurred late last year in Paris, CA. He relayed that the reason the language related to inspecting private homes was removed was because he was informed that (in his words: “regrettably”), “we just couldn’t do that.” After other brief comments from several witnesses who support and oppose the bill, it came time for public comments. One person rose to publicly support the bill.
Over two thousand Californians rose to oppose it.
In one of the largest public demonstrations the state Capitol has even seen, for over two and a half hours parents, grandparents, public school educators, private school educators, home school educators, policy professionals, police officers, fire fighters, private attorneys, public attorneys, the concerned, and finally the children themselves, all approached the microphone, looked the committee members square in the eyes, and asked them not to approve the bill. This was not the highly choreographed and contrived special interest opposition demonstrations that are so common at the Capitol; this was an organic opposition spontaneously generated across party lines and socio-economic statuses in defense of educational choice. It was quite a sight to see.
And for over two hours Assembly Member Medina stood with his back turned to the crowd, refusing to make eye contact with the people standing up for their rights.
When the comment period was finally over the Vice-Chair of the Committee, Kevin Kiley, addressed Medina, after thanking those who had made the effort to attend and participate in the hearing. First, he told Medina that based upon the previous language of AB 2756, the intent behind the bill seemed clear: to regulate and control California home schools. With the language regarding home inspections conveniently removed, what was the bill’s purpose? Medina related that he, again, would have liked the bill to be directed health and safety inspections, as originally written, but was forced to remove that portion. After relating that he opposes the entire home schooling population of California being affected by the bad acts of one individual family, Kiley again asked Medina what he hoped to accomplish with the bill as currently offered, specifically the new detailed reporting requirements.
Medina simply offered that he just thought that the government should have access to this private information.
We are left with the inescapable conclusion that AB 2756, and its companion bill AB 2926, are not really about protecting the health and safety of home schooled children in California at all: They are intended to regulate, control, and shut down the ability of California parents to homeschool their own children, through a breach of the Fourth Amendment if necessary. We can only hope that these provisions will not be clandestinely re-added to the bills at a later time, as all too often happens. These efforts should be resisted by the members of the California Legislature who care about educational freedom and the Bill of Rights. They should oppose any further amendments, and refuse to support of the bills as written.
At the conclusion of the committee meeting, the members declined to make a motion on the bill, thus killing it. It was a victory for the people who participated, and for all the people of California.