A controversy has erupted in Texas after a judge ordered children removed from the home of their Christian homeschooling parents – over the homeschooling itself – even though the Texas Home School Coalition notes the state doesn’t allow that.
A 2005 memo from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services notes that,”Whether parents choose to homeschool their children or send their child to another private or public school is not relevant to the CPS investigation. When CPS staff investigates a family for abuse/neglect, the investigation must focus on the occurrence, or risk, of abuse/neglect and not on the child’s educational setting,” according to the Texas Home School Coalition.
However, of the allegations brought against Trevor and Christina Tutt, who had four biological children and three foster children removed by Child Protective Services several weeks ago, all have been about the educational setting.
According to a report this week at Christian News, social workers were brought in when a child temporarily in the Tutts’ care, a four-year-old with autism, and an eight-year-old, wandered a short distance from the home in September.
A police officer found the children before Tutt, who was searching nearby, and the subsequent report attracted the attention of CPS.
According to the homeschoolers’ coalition, a caseworker concluded, “There is no problem here.”
However, that same – unidentified – caseworker, also told the court, “Nobody in their right mind would want to stay home all day with so many children,” and the court then required parenting classes and a psychological exam for Mrs. Tutt.
The Christian News report said, “Despite the fact that Mrs. Tutt showed CPS workers numerous parenting class certificates and paperwork certifying her mental health, a local judge ordered the Tutts’ seven children to be removed from the home.”
The coalition reported the Tutts were told the children were not “properly educated” and were being “brainwashed” by their parents.
Tim Lambert, president of the coalition, told the News how one of the meetings with social workers, a judge and the parents went:
“The hearing quickly devolved into a relentless attack on this family’s religious beliefs, community service, and right to homeschool their children … CPS attorneys berated Mrs. Tutt for not using a ‘state-certified home school curriculum,’ in spite of the fact that there is no such thing in Texas. The guardian ad litem denigrated her for not submitting documentation of her homeschooling to the state on a regular basis, including state-mandated tests. This, of course, is not only not required, but there is no way for someone to do so in Texas.”
In November, the judge, Graciela Olvera, ordered the children to remain in foster care.
The order also included for the parents, counseling, psychiatric evaluations, drug and alcohol testing, and parenting classes, the report said.
A followup hearing, in early December, also without evidence of abuse, brought the same result, family supporters said.
It was at yet another hearing, just this week, that a different judge noted the absence of evidence of abuse, and returned most of the children to the family. Not returned were two foster children whose adoptions were imminent.
According to a report from the Washington Times, an order for the children to remain in public schools still exists, and Lambert warns that should be alarming.
The Family Rights Project carried a statement from the oldest child of the couple, explaining that CPS changed its story about why the children needed attention five times.
“Texas Family Code does not even take educational issues into consideration in any way when defining abuse or neglect; in fact, TDFPS and TEA policy both clearly state homeschooling along is not a criteria for abuse or neglect,” the statement said.
“My parents’ rights under multiple Texas state laws have been violated, and my siblings have been traumatized by being ripped from their family and split up.”