Children and Education Rights


A Canopy Forum Thematic Series
December 2020

The intersection of law, religion, and the rights of children presents myriad dilemmas and challenges as we seek to balance the material interests of children to what government regards as appropriate education, healthcare, and upbringing; parental rights to raise and educate their children, as well as parents’ own religious interests; and children’s own rights to autonomy and religious self-determination alongside their diminished legal capacity and need for adult supervision and guidance.  In this series, several prominent scholars of religion, education law, race, and juvenile justice tackle a host of issues at the intersection of law, religion, and children’s educational rights.   Some of these issues are well-known, though anticipated expansions of parental Free Exercise rights to manage their children’s education and upbringing demand they be reconsidered.  Others, like government oversight of homeschooling and other educational models outside the public school system—including faith-based education—have been highlighted by the turmoil wrought on schooling practices during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  Moreover, the intersection of religion, education, and race had been recently sharpened by greater awareness for racial justice issues generally in the wake of this past summer’s BLM protests. 


“Why Suffer the Children? Overcoming Christian Opposition to Children’s Rights”

John Witte, Jr.
December 1, 2020

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the “CRC”) is a landmark in the modern international protection of children’s rights. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, its fifty-four articles and two optional protocols set out a lengthy catalogue of rights for children


“Religious Freedom in Education: A Fundamental, yet Elusive Right”

Charles J. Russo
December 3, 2020

“Since time immemorial, whether as evidenced by the cave paintings from prehistoric France, the polytheistic religions of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, or the animistic belief systems and totems erected in much of the rest of the pre-Judeo-Christian, non-Western world, humans all over the globe have recognized the need to call on a higher being while engaging in what today might be described as freedom of religion…”


“Students with Disabilities in Faith-Based Schools: Public Schools’ Responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act”

Allan G. Osborne, Jr.
December 7, 2020

“The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates states, through local school boards or education agencies, to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children with disabilities. To meet this requirement, the statute requires school officials to offer special education and related services to eligible students…”




“The coronavirus pandemic has increased interest in homeschooling, igniting discussion and debate surrounding the intersections of family and children’s rights, religious freedom, and education law. This essay raises awareness regarding the changing faces of homeschool families which challenge notions of equity and familial rights related to education and religion…”


“Homeschool Deregulation and Child Abuse”

Milton Gaither
December 10, 2020

“If you’re looking for a convenient signpost to mark the beginning of the homeschooling movement in the U.S. you might choose the publication of the first ever newsletter devoted to the practice, hand-typed and sent out to a few families by the famous education reformer John Holt in August of 1977…”


“From Common Schools to Greenhouses: School Battles, Homeschooling, and Children’s Rights”

Rachel Coleman
December 14, 2020

“Earlier this year, Harvard Magazine, the university’s alumni publication, interviewed Elizabeth Bartholet, professor at Harvard Law School and faculty director of its Child Advocacy Program, for an article titled “The Risks of Homeschooling.” In the article, Bartholet argued that unregulated homeschooling poses a danger to children….”


“Seeking Common Ground And Why Assertions about ‘Most Homeschoolers’ Distract from Reasonable Oversight”

Robert Kunzman
December 16, 2020

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced remote instruction, homeschooling was the fastest-growing educational choice in the United States over the past two decades. While many parents have kept their children enrolled in schools for online instruction, it appears that thousands of other families have chosen independent homeschooling this fall instead…”