The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court will decide whether homeschooling families must teach educational basics to their children or be allowed to wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
An appeals court ruled against Michael and Laura McIntyre last year, saying the Christian couple was not exempt from state education regulations.
The McIntyres appealed that ruling, and the state’s high court will decide whether religious parents have an obligation to ensure their children actually learn anything, reported the Associated Press.
The couple removed their nine children from a private school in 2004, and a relative previously testified that the parents used empty space in a motorcycle dealership they co-owned as a classroom.
However, the relative testified that he never saw the children reading books, using computers or doing arithmetic — but instead they only played musical instruments and sang.
“Tracy (McIntyre, Michael’s brother) overheard one of the McIntyre children tell a cousin that they did not need to do schoolwork because they were going to be raptured,” court documents show.
Texas does not require home-school families to register with state or local educational officials, and they also aren’t required to teach state-approved curriculums or give standardized tests.
But problems arose when the family’s eldest daughter, then 17 years old, ran away from home in 2006 and enrolled at a public high school — where administrators placed her in ninth grade because they weren’t sure she could handle higher-level coursework.
The El Paso school district eventually asked the McIntyres to prove their children were being properly educated, and the couple later filed a lawsuit after they were charged with truancy.
The charges were later dropped, but the couple asked for relief under the Texas Education Code, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA), the Texas Constitution, and the United States Constitution.
The McIntyres say the public school district is biased against Christians, and they accused school administrators of making a “startling assertion of sweeping governmental power.”
All but one of their children are now grown, although Laura McIntyre is still homeschooling her youngest child.
“We are definitely looking for a little clarification,” she said.
The case could have sweeping consequences for the state’s estimated 300,000 homeschooled students, if the conservative Texas Supreme Court overturns the appeals court ruling.
“No parents have ever prevailed in any reported case on a theory that they have an absolute constitutional right to educate their children in the home,” 8th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure wrote in ruling against the family last year.
Put another way, a ruling in favor of the McIntyres could remove what little bit of oversight remains in place over Texas families who teach their children at home.
“Parents should be allowed to decide how to educate their children, not whether to educate their children,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Education.