Christian homeschoolers in Texas accused of not educating kids due to ‘rapture’

© Kim Hong-Ji
The Texas Supreme Court is hearing the case of a family accused of failing to educate their children because they were waiting for the second coming of Jesus. The family says the government is violating their constitutional rights.

Michael and Laura McIntyre were asked by the El Paso school district to submit proof that their children were being properly educated after Michael’s twin brother said he never saw any of the children studying. Tracy McIntyre claimed he heard one of the children say they were “going to be raptured.”

The family sued, saying the school district is biased against Christians and that its officials are engaged in a “startling assertion of sweeping governmental power.”

Laura McIntyre says that the Christian curriculum she used at home was the same as the one taught at the private El Paso religious school her children had attended until 2004. She added that her brother-in-law is a biased witness due to a separate legal dispute between the twins over a motorcycle dealership they used to own together, reported El Paso’s KGRV-TV.

“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 her decision last year, ruling in favor of the school district. The family pressed on and had their case heard by the Texas Supreme Court on Monday.

The case is attracting national attention because homeschooling is on the rise in both Texas and the US overall. By 2012, three percent of all US students, some 1.7 million children, were being educated at home, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Texans accounted for more than one in six of that number – around 300,000 – the Texas Home School Coalition estimated.

“Expect the rapidly expanding homeschooling movement to play a significant role in the revolutionary reforms needed to build a free society with constitutional protections,” Ron Paul, former Republican congressman from Texas, said in his farewell speech in 2012. Paul announced his own school curriculum covering students through the fifth grade in April 2013. It is available to parents as a free service.

Many parts of the US have no laws or requirements holding home-schooling parents accountable, says Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Her organization champions laws that would give government oversight and guidance authority, arguing this would protect students from child abuse and homeschool neglect.

“Part of the problem is, on the political right they’ll remove oversight to score points with their base and there isn’t a strong enough opposition to that on the other side,” said Coleman. “This happens especially in states where their legislatures are more conservative.”

While Texas mandates a written curriculum for a basic education in reading, spelling, grammar, math and citizenship, it does not require standardized tests or other proofs of progress, which makes the mandate unenforceable, says Coleman. Texas is among 11 states that do not require home-schooling families to register, while 14 states have no subject requirements for what is taught at home.

In what was widely seen as an endorsement of homeschooling, Republican Governor Greg Abbott appointed Donna Bahorich as chair of the Texas Board of Education in June. Critics objected to Bahorich’s lack of experience with the public school system, since she homeschooled her three sons before sending them to private schools.