AUSTIN, Texas – Texas home school families need to take note of this case. While the parents won, and should never have had their children taken, it is still an lesson in how the attitudes and beliefs of social workers can override the law.
Mr. and Mrs. Tutt are a Christian family who has their own children and foster children. They home school. Unlike most couples, they are equipped to handle special needs children who are particularly difficult to place. They recently had a temporary placement, a small child with autism, who wondered off. While he was found a short way from the home (the father was looking for him) by a police officer, Child Protective Services (CPS) followed up the investigation with a home visit.
“According to a recent article from the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), a CPS caseworker investigated the Tutt family’s home and concluded by saying, “There is no problem here.” However, the caseworker also remarked, “Nobody in their right mind would want to stay home all day with so many children!” and ordered Mrs. Tutt to enroll in parenting classes and take a psychological examination. 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. In November, armed constables seized the children and kept them under government custody for nearly two months.”
The removal of the children was clearly illegal. Texas law precludes taking the children unless a clear threat to the children. Furthermore, Texas law gives parents the right to home school. At the first hearing, the judge upheld CPS’s decision. The hearing lasted 8 hours and Mrs. Tutt’s faith and home school liberties were attacked.
“The hearing quickly devolved into a relentless attack on this family’s religious beliefs, community service, and right to home school their children—with no legal basis at all,” Lambert reports. “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 home schooling 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.”
Even though no evidence of parental abuse or neglect was ever mentioned in the hearing or the original removal affidavit filed with the judge, Judge Graciela Olvera ruled that the Tutts’ children should be kept under government foster care and not returned to their parents, based on CPS arguments about the children being home schooled. The parents were further ordered to take parenting classes, submit to psychological evaluations, drug and alcohol testing, and psychiatric tests.
The couple appealed the decision. The judge ruled that the state return the children. Based on the facts of the case, she determined that the children were removed due to homeschooling, not abuse or neglect. She overturned Olvera’s ruling, which was not based on abuse findings, but rather complaints about homeschooling.
The reversal is good news, but the warning here is clear. There is a generation of bureaucrats who simple don’t accept homeschooling. Christians need to be diligent and steadfast in upholding their rights.
Authored by Allison Martinez – Free Patriot
*UPDATE 1-22-14 *– It has been brought to the attention of Joe for America that the Tutts’ victory is not as straightforward as the above article had previously claimed. Only 4 of the Tutts’ 7 foster children were returned to their care. One remains with his father, another is remaining in state care pending adoption, and the status of the third child remains unknown. The 4 returned children have been instructed to return to public school while the Tutts undero redundant and unnecessary mental health and drug abuse screenings.
When the state rolls into your life, there is very rarely a happy endings. This story underscores the need for home school parents to be prepared for every challenge. We at JFA recommend checking out the Home School Legal Defense Association. This organization is prepared to protect your home school children at the instant the case worker shows up at the door. Resources such as these should be on every parent’s speed dial!