The Texas Supreme Court sided Friday with a family accused of not teaching its children anything while waiting to be "raptured," but failed to answer larger constitutional questions about whether home-schooled students must be properly educated.
The 6-3 decision by the all-Republican court on technical grounds means nothing was decided regarding a showdown between religious liberties and educational requirements in America's largest conservative state, though it will live on in lower Texas courts.
Texas doesn't require parents who home-school their children to register with state authorities. While families must meet "basic educational goals" in reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics and citizenship, they don't have to give standardized testing or otherwise prove student progress is made.
Problems for Laura and Michael McIntyre, who once educated their nine children in an empty office at the family's motorcycle dealership in El Paso, arose after an uncle told the school district that he never saw the children do much of anything educational. According to court filings, he also overheard of the children tell a cousin "they did not need to do schoolwork because they were going to be raptured," or blessed by the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The family's eldest daughter, 17-year-old Tori, ran away from home in 2006 so she could return to school. The El Paso district put her in the ninth grade because officials weren't sure she could handle higher grade-level work — a claim her parents' dispute.
Attempting to investigate accusations of non-learning, school district attendance officer Michael Mendoza sought proof the children were being properly educated. That prompted the McIntyres to sue, arguing that their equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment had been violated and that the school district was anti-Christian.
The family said it used a religious curriculum similar to one offered in El Paso's Christian schools, and noted the uncle invented claims of waiting for the rapture because he was embroiled in a dispute over ownership of the since-defunct motorcycle dealership.
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I have faith in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, so I have a soft spot for these parents.
On the other hand, what can these children learn that is of value which they could not pick up by surfing the Internet and watching TV? Unless they want to go to medical, dental, law, or some other professional school, spending twelve years in public school is more or less a waste of their time and the public's money.
And according to this survey, 90% of people agree: