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The right of parents to make educational decisions for their children has evolved since the earliest reported state law cases in the last quarter of the 19th century. As state governments became more involved in regulating education, conflicts between parents and public officials led to litigation. Most recently, the rights of students themselves are being recognized. This entry summarizes the development of parental rights as evidenced in judicial decisions.

Natural Law

The earliest cases involved the application of state common law to requests by parents to make educational decisions on behalf of their children. The origin of this common law is not clear, but presumably it devolved from the notion that the responsibilities of parents to maintain, protect, and educate their children were undergirded by “principles of ...

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