Chelsea Schilling is a commentary editor and staff writer for WND and a proud U.S. Army veteran. She has also worked as a news producer at USA Radio Network and as a news reporter for the Sacramento Union.More ↓Less ↑
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a 10-year-old homeschool girl who has been ordered into a government-run school because she was too “vigorous” in defense of her Christian faith.
As WND reported, a girl identified in court documents as “Amanda” had been described as “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”
Nevertheless, a New Hampshire court official determined that she would be better off in public school rather than continuing her homeschool education.
The August decision from Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that Amanda’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”
The recommendation was approved by Judge Lucinda V. Sadler, but it is being challenged by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, who said it was “a step too far” for any court.
The ADF filed motions with the court on Aug. 24 seeking reconsideration of the order and a stay of the decision sending the 10-year-old student in government-run schools in Meredith, N.H. On Sept. 17, a lower-court judge refused to reconsider or stay the order.
The denial of the motions, signed by Judge Sadler of the Family Division of the Judicial Court for Belknap County in Laconia, states, “Amanda is at an age when it can be expected that she would benefit from the social interaction and problem solving she will find in public school, and granting a stay would result in a lost opportunity for her.”
Court claims Amanda would benefit from public school
The dispute arose as part of a modification of a parenting plan for the girl. The parents divorced in 1999 when she was a newborn, and the mother has homeschooled her daughter since first grade with texts that meet all state standards.
In addition to homeschooling, the girl attends supplemental public-school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extracurricular sports activities, the ADF reported.
But during the process of negotiating the terms of the plan, a guardian ad litem appointed to participate concluded the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public-school setting” and “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief … in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”
According to court documents, the guardian ad litem earlier had told the mother, “If I want her in public school, she’ll be in public school.”
The guardian ad litem had an anti-Christian bias, the documents said, telling the mother at one point she wouldn’t even look at homeschool curriculum.
“I don’t want to hear it. It’s all Christian-based,” she said.
The marital master who heard the case proposed the Christian girl be ordered into public school after considering “the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others.”
“Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that’s where our concern lies,” ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons said in a statement.
Simmons said the court wrongly interfered with Amanda’s education plan after admitting the child was sociable and “academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”
“[B]ut then it ordered her out of the homeschooling she loves so that her religious views will be challenged at a government school,” Simmons explained. “That’s where the court went too far.”
Now the New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear the case. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson said the lower court is setting a dangerous standard.
“We are concerned anytime a court oversteps its bounds to tread on the right of a parent to make sound educational choices, or to discredit the inherent value of the homeschooling option,” Johnson sad. “The lower court effectively determined that it would be a ‘lost opportunity’ if a child’s Christian views are not sifted and challenged in a public-school setting. We regard that as a dangerous precedent.”