Perhaps a few families who were homeschooling in 1994 are still homeschooling today, but by and large, most current Texas homeschooling families don’t remember a time when homeschooling was illegal in our state. This is a good thing, and a not-so-good thing.
Of course, we are grateful for the freedom we have—however, just like the children of Israel that Moses led out of Egypt, it doesn’t take very long for us to lose sight of how precious our freedom is. God instituted the annual tradition of Passover to remind the Israelites of that narrow escape from slavery.
In some ways, Leeper Day, June 9th, is analogous to Passover for Texas homeschoolers, in that it reminds us of the freedom we should cherish.
The 1994 Texas Supreme Court decision in Leeper v. Arlington ISD has become a pillar of defense for homeschool parents and students from unlawful attacks against their right to home educate.
On June 15, 1994, after the state had appealed a second time, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a 9-0 decision upholding the ruling by the lower court and cementing the right of Texas parents to teach their children at home.
That’s the victory, but the story is in the struggle that led up to that victory. THSC produced a documentary film, “Taking a Stand in Texas—The Battle for Home School Freedom” which, although dated, is worthwhile for every homeschooling family to watch to understand where we come from.
If you are a Texas homeschooling family, this movie is your “roots” story.
Meet the Pioneers
Let’s take a quick look inside “Taking a Stand in Texas” and meet a few of the pioneers who fought hard for the freedom we now often take for granted.
Kirk and Beverly McCordThe Texas Home School Coalition was established as a political action committee in 1986 by Kirk McCord of Hearth and Home Ministries, as well as the late Brad Chamberlain. Because of the numerous lawsuits against homeschoolers across the state and harmful legislation being introduced in Austin, they saw a need for a statewide political organization to work for the rights of homeschoolers in the state of Texas. Beverly, along with Barbara Short, organized the first homeschool group in Texas in 1982 and published the Texas Coalition Newsletter in 1983.
Virginia BakerKnown as a “pioneer homeschooling mom,” Ginny Baker was the second modern homeschooling mother in the nation (as far as is known) and the first in Texas. As interest in homeschool abounded, Mrs. Baker wrote “Teaching Your Children At Home,” the first “how-to” homeschool manual written by a parent who actually did the teaching. Her book sold to parents, missionaries and military families in eight countries. Ginny also compiled the small leaflet, “You Ask Me Why?” with tens of thousands distributed to legislators, parents and educators nationwide.
Steve and Barbara ShortThis Richardson couple with three daughters was prosecuted for violating truancy laws when they decided to homeschool their children. Steve was a Dallas policeman and a deacon at his church. This family was one of the first to challenge the school attendance law using a defense that the statute was “unconstitutionally vague” as applied to homeschooling. The Shorts were found guilty of truancy and exited the courtroom to national news cameras. The following day, the judge dismissed the case, realizing their argument had merit. That, however, was not reported in national news.
Gary & Cheryl LeeperJust three weeks after the couple started homeschooling, a truancy officer appeared at their door for “a friendly visit.” Five days later, they received a letter from the school district regarding “family code violations.” Believing they, in fact, had the right to homeschool, they approached Attorney Shelby Sharpe after a presentation to homeschoolers about legal issues and thus began the class action suit that would bear their name: Leeper v. Arlington ISD.
Shelby SharpeShelby Sharpe was the lead attorney in the Leeper v. Arlington class action suit, the landmark case that settled the question of homeschools in Texas being private schools. This case was heard at the district and appellate court levels and by the Texas Supreme Court—it confirmed the freedoms that parents now enjoy in Texas, one of the best states in which people can homeschool.
Helen JacksonA key witness in the Leeper case, Helen Jackson silenced the courtroom when she revealed that she had chosen to homeschool her children rather than accept an official offer from NASA to become the first female astronaut.
We encourage you to own your proud Texas homeschooling history. Why not use “Taking a Stand in Texas” for your next citizenship class? Every Texas homeschooler should understand how hard-fought our freedom was … and how fragile it is.
As Kirk McCord reflects in the final moments of the documentary:
On this 25th anniversary of the Leeper decision, Texas Home School Coalition is pleased to have Shelby Sharpe, Dr. Helen Jackson and other Texas homeschool pioneers as speakers and special guests of our Gala celebration.
Please share this video! All Texans who support homeschooling are invited to attend the gala.