John M. O'Brien, the defendant, father of Eileen O'Brien, aged eleven, and Mark O'Brien, aged eight, residing in the Township of Dennis, Cape May County, is charged by Angelica Knox, the plaintiff Attendance Officer of the School District of the Township of Dennis, with failing to cause the named children regularly to attend the public schools of the said School District, and further charges the defendant with having neither caused the children to attend a day school, in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainment, nor have they received equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school, contrary to the provisions of R.S. 18:14-14.
The defendant seeks exoneration from his conduct by advancing:
(1) The New Jersey statute under which the complaint is brought is unconstitutional because it violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
(2) The defendant has provided instruction for the two children equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainment.
As to the validity of R.S. 18:14-14, and commonly known as the "Compulsory Education Law," the act in question, under which this action is brought, is as follows:
"Every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between the ages of seven and sixteen years shall cause such child regularly to attend the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school * * *. Such regular attendance shall be during all the days and hours that the public schools are in session in the school district unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the board of education of the school district that the mental condition of the child is such that he cannot benefit from instruction in the school or that the bodily condition of the child is such as to prevent his attendance at school."
The pertinent portion of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution reads as follows:
"No State shall * * * deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
The right of a sovereign state to adopt legislation to direct the paths of its children to seek education for enlightenment and literacy, so as to enjoy full and complete life, is so fundamental as to relieve the need for judicial citation.
Very recently the United States Supreme Court gave its approval to this important duty of government when it said:
"It is much too late to argue that legislation intended to facilitate the opportunity of children to get a secular education serves no public purpose." Everson v. Board of ...