On June 9, Texas homeschoolers celebrate Leeper Day. After an almost ten-year battle for homeschool freedom for Texas families, June 9, 1994, marked the important date that the Texas Supreme Court finally rendered its decision in the Leeper v. Arlington ISD case. I distinctly remember a dramatic sense of relief. The Texas Attorney General had proclaimed publicly that he did not believe parents were qualified to teach their own children. The stakes seemed high for Texas parents.
Many homeschoolers in Texas today have no idea what it was like to home school in the 1980s. The fear and anxiety that many faced because they believed they were called by God to train and teach their children at home was very real. More than 100 courageous families across the state were prosecuted. Many of them lost their cases, and some left the state in order to be able to continue to homeschool. The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) traveled the state meeting Texas families that joined the Leeper case and the fight for homeschool freedom, under the direction of lead attorney Shelby Sharpe.
The January before the Leeper decision, I listened in the courtroom to the oral arguments, along with dozens of homeschoolers and their children. We were on a “political science field trip.” Later that day we joined thousands of homeschoolers on the south steps of the Texas Capitol to support the fundamental constitutional right of parents to direct the care, control and upbringing of their children, which we believed included the right to teach our children at home.
The unanimous decision of the court that day in June was the culmination of not only a long legal battle, but a public relations battle as well. The homeschool community found itself divided with significant controversy about the decision to sue the state of Texas. Some argued that suing the state was a risk that would not only bring attention to homeschoolers, but could also result in a loss of our freedom through a bad court decision. One group went so far as to file a motion in court opposing the case.
Today all of that is forgotten, and we look back at the decision and willingness of Gary and Cheryl Leeper to sue the state of Texas for filing truancy charges against their family simply because they taught their children at home. The Leeper family, along with the other members of the class action suit, put themselves in the public eye and made themselves potential targets in order to end the uncertainty and legal harassment of parents all over Texas.
Texas prides itself in leading the charge for freedom, and this court ruling testified to the tenacious, courageous and principled leadership of Texas. The Leeper decision impacted not only Texas, but states across the country as one of the first published court decisions to support homeschooling. As such, it contributed to the battle for homeschool freedoms in other states as well.
Thank you, Governor Abbott, for proclaiming June 9 as Leeper Day. Thank you to the Leeper family and the other members of the suit, for putting yourselves and your families on the line for all of us. Thank you, Shelby Sharpe, for fighting the legal battle all the way to the Texas Supreme Court to secure our freedom to homeschool.
Since 1986, THSC has been Keeping Texas Families Free. THSC remembers the fight for the Leeper decision and we understand the cost and value of maintaining freedom. You can rest assured; THSC will stand by members to continue protecting the rights of homeschool families. Is your homeschool family supporting the fight? Join or support THSC today!