Lawsuit Challenges California Law Criminalizing Teaching Trade Skills

Today, Bob Smith, owner of the Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School (PCHS), filed a federal lawsuit against the State of California to vindicate his First Amendment right to teach horseshoeing to anybody who wants to learn how. The lawsuit, which was filed by the non-profit Institute for Justice (IJ), challenges a recent California law requiring that trade schools like Bob’s deny admission to any student who has not completed high school or a state-approved equivalent. He is joined in the suit by Esteban Narez, a ranch hand who wants to learn how to shoe horses at PCHS, but cannot be admitted because he never graduated high school.

“Just like publishing a how-to book or uploading an instructional video to YouTube is protected by the First Amendment, so is teaching,” said Keith Diggs, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents Bob and Esteban. “By limiting who Bob is allowed to teach and what Esteban is allowed to learn, California has not only harmed the students most in need of an education, but also violated their First Amendment rights.”

Since he opened PCHS in 1991, Bob has taught thousands of students to become professional farriers—craftsmen who trim and shoe horses. Like other vocational schools, PCHS, which is located an hour outside of Sacramento, offers an alternative career path to many who do not fit into the traditional education system. For students like Esteban who have limited formal education, trade schools are traditionally a clear-cut path to the middle class.

But according to the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, it is illegal for Bob to teach students like Esteban. Earlier this year, Bob opened his mailbox to find a notice from the Bureau threatening to shut him down if he did not change his admissions policy. A few months later, Esteban applied to PCHS, but Bob begrudgingly turned him down as the Bureau told him to.


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