Parents’ Right to Direct Their Children’s Education: Examining the Interests of the Parents, the Schools, and the Students

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Education Law Reporter


parents rights, education, access to information, liberty clause, noncustodial parents


At stake is a fundamental definition of the parent–child relationship. As originally defined by the Supreme Court in the three Liberty Clause cases discussed below, constitutional protection for the right of parents to make decisions for, act on behalf of, and have access to information concerning their children touches on a variety of legal issues. The purpose of this article is to examine how judicial interpretations of the Liberty Clause have affected the rights of parents, school districts, and students.

The article is divided into five main parts. Part I analyzes the three Supreme Court decisions that framed the Liberty Clause right of parents to make decisions regarding the venue for their children's education. Part II examines the impact of the Liberty Clause on the rights of custodial and noncustodial parents, as determined under state law using best interest of the child analysis. Part III discusses how the Liberty Clause can affect adverse employment decisions by school districts against public school employee parents who have made nonpublic educational choices for their children. Part IV explores how the Liberty Clause right of parents to direct their children's education has been affected by four decades of judicial development of the constitutional rights of students. Part V reflects on discussions in the first four Parts and suggests implications for legal and education practitioners.


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