The Homeschooling Crisis No One Is Talking About.

I tease my parents a lot. After getting 16 kicks in my behind (15 ones that I needed and 1 extra to be safe), I have earned the right to lay the teasing on heavy. One of my favorite topics is about how I could use their help as plaintiffs in the various lawsuits to uphold liberty that I intend on bringing in practice. Imagine their horror when I manage to convince them that I am serious about their plaintiff status in coronavirus litigation – I can get 5 minutes of fun from that joke. However, a few nights ago, I was the one horrified.

My parents homeschooled their children from pre-school through 12th grade. By all accounts, they did a spectacular job. My older brother became an aerospace program manager before he turned 25. My younger sister landed a job that essentially gave her complete control over her own lab less than a year out of college. I have a job with the best criminal defense law firm in the country, worked for a federal judge, published a very widely read law review article, and served as a guest editor for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy for an entire year.

One remains – my younger brother who is exactly eight years younger than me. He is a talented musician and composer. He has a keen appetite for the sciences and demonstrates the same cerebral intensity that I do in my less gregarious moods. The track record says that my parents will present the world with another talented competitor in about a year’s time who will equal and exceed his predecessors’ accomplishments.

Will he have a chance to shine like his siblings did or will the state put his life on hold? My siblings and I do not have traditional high school diplomas. We have General Education Diplomas (GEDs), which are typically obtained by school dropouts.  Without a high school diploma, GED, or SAT scores, most universities and colleges won’t look at a homeschooled applicant. Under the current social distancing measures, the SAT and the test to obtain a GED cannot be administered and are postponed for the foreseeable future – a dilemma similar to my ordeal with the bar exam. Without any of the three esoteric qualifications for the foreseeable future, my brother will be severely disadvantaged in his college application process including in his eligibility for scholarships unless my family can come up with a way of irresistibly highlighting his merits.

Although my brother would optimally take the GED in the fall/winter, my father broached the subject with me the other night so I could pray and think as well. Half jesting and half seriously, I eventually stated that my parents could become plaintiffs on behalf of my brother, and I would take their case to the United States Supreme Court if necessary. As is my habit when I get carried away, I began to rattle off possible legal theories – some with decent chances of success and others with long odds that would make the state’s attorneys and some judicial law clerks miserable for a few hours. My parents played along well enough, but I could sense the same thought churning in the back of their minds.

Will we have to litigate to ensure that my brother goes to college?

Instead of going to bed after I said good night, I began pacing and staring into my unlit fireplace again. Was I ready to litigate for my family? One part of my brain had already begun tilting at the windmill. The other part sat down and stared at the windmill. It’s one thing to take risks in a bitter battle for your own future. I have been there, and I welcome the battles now. It’s quite another to take risks in a bitter battle for your loved one’s future. I am scared, but I sure hope that renders me a cornered wildcat.

I couldn’t reach a satisfying answer that night, and I eventually turned in. As the next few days went by, I began to focus on the bigger picture because my brother has time, albeit limited time. What about the homeschooled children who are graduating grade 12 this spring? Were they able to take their GED exams on time? I sure hope so, but I can imagine many who were unable to. What is going to happen to them?

No one is hiring now, but graduating homeschooled children lack a high school diploma or GED. This “inadequacy” deprives them of most, if not all, college opportunities and essentially renders them unemployable in an incredibly hard job market. They won’t even be able to enlist in the United States military. To date, I have not heard of any efforts to administer the GED or the SAT online. I have heard of no steps being taken by state governments to ensure that these homeschool graduates have an opportunity to either pursue a college degree or obtain a job. In short, the states are neglecting them because their parents defied a rigid and bureaucratic educational system to give their children a better education.

Such a failure on the part of the state governments is unconscionable as a moral, ethical, and economic proposition. It may very well be unconstitutional as well.

For now, I am going to pray and watch. I have an accomplished younger brother who is going to go to college on time even if I have to sue the state for him to live the same dream as any other American kid.

Cameron L. Atkinson

Cameron Atkinson is a Christian, a published constitutional scholar, a trial and appellate lawyer, and a general hell-raiser. He has received national recognition for his victories in civil rights cases, especially in First Amendment cases. Attorney Atkinson stands out for his written advocacy, and he has taken the lead role in briefing cases to the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Connecticut Supreme Court, the Connecticut Appellate Court, and multiple New York appellate courts. Attorney Atkinson has successfully represented clients facing criminal charges, including successfully arguing for the reversal of a sexual assault conviction before the Connecticut Supreme Court. He will accept requests for public speaking engagements on a case-by-case basis.

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