Historic Cases

People vs. Levisen

Link to court case

Currently there are two kinds of schools in Illinois. The first kind, the one the vast majority of children experience, is the publicly run and funded schools the state and local government can tinker with as they see fit. The second kind of school is the private or non-public school. The Illinois State School Code (Ch. 122, Schools) contains one section that impinges on private or non-public schools. This is the section of the School Code 26-1, Exception 1 that states:

Compulsory school age -- Exemptions
Whoever has custody or control of any child between the ages of 7 and 16 years shall cause such child to attend some public school in the district wherein the child resides the entire time it is in session during the regular school term, except as provided in Section 10-19.1; Provided that the following children shall not be required to attend the public schools:
1. Any child attending a private or a parochial school where children are taught the branches of education taught to children of corresponding age and grade in the public schools, and where the instruction of the child in the branches of education is in the English language.

As it stands now, Illinois home schools are private schools as long as they comply with 26.1. This was established by the Illinois Supreme Court case People vs. Levisen. In People vs. Levisen, (1950), The Supreme Court of Illinois reversed the conviction of homeschool parents. The appellants were Seventh Day Adventists and, according to Justice Crampton who delivered the opinion of the Court, "believed that the child should not be educated in competition with other children because it would produce a pugnacious character, that the necessary atmosphere of faith in the Bible cannot be obtained in the public school, and that for the first eight or ten years of life, in the field or garden is the best schoolroom, the mother the best teacher, and nature the best lesson book."

The Supreme Court did not agree that the homeschool parents had violated the compulsory attendance law. The Court clarified the purpose of compulsory education laws as follows:

Compulsory education laws are enacted to enforce the natural obligation of parents to provide an education for their young, an obligation which corresponds to the parents' right of control over the child, and the object of Section 26-1 of the School Code, requiring children to attend school, is that all children shall be educated, not that they shall be educated in any particular manner or place.

Further, the Court defined a private school as: "a place where instruction is imparted to the young... the number of persons being taught does not determine whether a place is a school."

These findings indicate that the parents' right to control their children includes the right to provide an education for them at home. In Levisen, the child's school was in the home and there was only one student. However, the Court ruled that this had no bearing on the legality of the home school situation. Further, according to Levisen, in Illinois, a home school can legally be considered a private school: ... the law is not made to punish those who provide their children with instruction equal or superior to that obtainable in the public schools. It is made for the parent who fails or refuses to properly educate his child (Levisen, at 215).

Since the Levisen ruling, no state agency has questioned the right of parents to establish a home school. As such, home schools must not be made accountable to any regulation, law, guideline or enforcement separate or different that that applied to other private schools.

Scoma v. Chicago Board of Education

391 F. Supp. 452 (N.D. Ill. 1974)
Link to court case

You will hear of this case in some conversations of homeschooling law in Illinois. As such, here is a brief description:

The Scoma family, after being contacted repeatedly by their school district after the transfer of their children to their private (home) school, filed a complaint that said they felt "the Illinois Compulsory Attendance Act, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 122, § § 26-1 to 26-11, is unconstitutional" in regards to them. In effect, they were challenging the compulsory attendance law that had been granted homeschools in People v. Levisen, 404 Ill. 574, 578, 90 N.E.2d 213, 215 (1950).

The court agreed with People v. Levisen, reaffirmed the homechoolers must comply with the compulsory attendance law as stated in article 26.1 of IL educational law, and emphasized that the burden of proof rests with the parents to "establish that the plan of home instruction which they are providing to their children meets the state requirements." In fact, they found Levisen to be 'reasonable and constitutional.'

The court did not add or take away any requirements. They simply reaffirmed what we already had.

Some regional superintendents have interpreted this case to mean, however, that they have the right to investigate if a family is under compliance with or without cause. While only the courts can interpret law, we do not feel this is a correct interpretation.

Please visit What To Do if a Truant Officer Comes to Your Door for more information.

Richard Martwick's Legacy on Illinois Homeschooling

Richard Martwick served as Cook County Regional Superintendent of Education from 1970 until 1994 when his office was removed making Martwick the very last Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools. Today, Chicago has somewhat different school laws because Chicago alone has no Regional Office of Education (ROE) and has the Chicago Board of Education instead.

Martwick, during his tenure, convinced many of Chicago's homeschool families to register so he could provide them with extra services. He did provide extra services at first, convincing others to register as well. He then sent out truant officers to intimidate, harass, and take to court every one of those families that registered. Many were forced into full time public school enrollment.

This has happened in other ROEs as well and this is why Illinois HOUSE has long urged families to not register as we view it as being overly compliant.

Interested in more information on this? Here is some of the background story: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1988-03-09-8804050885-story.html