Friday, March 13, 2009

A judge feels homeschool children belong in public school

My heart goes out to Venessa Mills. Her husband cheated on her, and then in court pushes to have his children placed back in public school. It appears at least part of the reason he wants them in public school is he doesn't want to pay the expenses of homeschooling.

My heart also goes out to the children. They probably love their father, but he's abandoned them, partially or completely. They have been doing great with homeschooling. They have tested two years above their grade levels, yet their father wants them in public school.

The judge has indicated he will rule that the children go off to the government schools. From Mom will fight order against homeschooling:

As part of a continuing divorce case, Wake District Court Judge Ned Mangum said last Friday that it would be in the "best interests" of Venessa Mills' three children to go to public school this fall.
Mangum said at the hearing that while the children are "thriving," they need to be exposed to the "real world."
"It will do them a great benefit to be in the public schools, and they will challenge some of the ideas that you've taught them, and they could learn from that and make them stronger," Mangum told Mills at last week's court hearing.

One of the problems with having courts involved in family disputes is the judges often have great power. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that this judge has the power to make his decision based on what he "feels" is in the best interest of the children.

It also appears the judge is anti-Christian. WorldNetDaily reports in Judge orders homeschoolers into public district classrooms:

... the judge also ordered a mental health evaluation for the mother – but not the father – as part of the divorce proceedings, in what Williams described as an attack on the "mother's conservative Christian beliefs."

Robyn Williams, a friend of Venessa Mills, set up a blog to provide more information on the case, and ask for help in support of Venessa. At Homeschool Injustice Robyn has some suggestions on what you can do to help. I'm going to make a few phone calls to express my concern over the judges ruling.

Update I - 17 March 2009:
The judge rules the children will have to go to public schools in the fall.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education


Kim said...
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Kim said...

Divorce in the case of homeschooling must be very difficult. Not only is the family broken, homeschooling can be financially impossible to continue, causing further disruption. However, the father is allowed to no longer support homeschooling. We may not feel his desire to not foot the bill is an honorable one. But to say that a mother has a right to continue homeschooling against the father's wishes (since he has not lost custody yet and is likely to have joint custody where both parents are equally responsible for decisions) would bother me greatly.

I see a lot of people think that the children testing above grade level is an immediate reason to continue homeschooling. Those of us in the homeschooling community however understand that testing is only part of what goes in public schools or homeschool. We would not claim that public school is the right choice for children simply because they tested well.

I see that the article you linked to has additional information about the religious allegations that were raised. The husband and other members of the family want to limit the children's involvement in that particular church. According to the article, the church beliefs seem outside of the mainstream. Like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, one can be against those particular teachings without being anti-Christian.

While judges must not interfere when a couple wants to raise their children with a particular belief system, when there is a disagreement in divorce, the only recourse is asking the judge to decide the best interest of the children. Since many judges are going to have mainstream beliefs, it is not surprising or unexpected for the judge to side with the views that are more common and I personally do not find that outside of the judge's responsibilities.

While the claim has been that the judge is anti-Christian, there hasn't been any evidence that supports that conclusion. That the mother is undergoing an evaluation may have more to do with her father and children's father's concerns than the judge's.

It is a terrible situation.

Henry Cate said...

Kim, you make some good points. I totally agree that fathers should be allowed to make decisions about their children. Glenn Sacks frequently posts about how often there is a double standard in the courts for men and women.

Divorce is often ugly.

I think the two main points I have about this situation is:

1) The father seemed to be OK with homeschooling for years and only after his affair does he want to stop homeschooling. It is possible that he wanted to give it a try and after a couple years decided it didn't seem to be working. Too often though divorce is ugly and one or both parents will do things not in the best interests of the children to hurt the other parents.

2) If homeschooling seems to be working well, then I think a judge should be very hesitant to make changes just because the judge feels the children we have their beliefs challenge.

Crimson Wife said...

Apparently Thomas Mills even got his soon-to-be-ex-father-in-law to testify against Venessa, claiming that his daughter's church is a "cult". What a jerk!

It appears from what I found on a quick Google search that the church is ultra-fundamentalist but not an actual cult. And I think it's a violation of Mrs. Mills' 1st Amendment rights to be forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation merely based on her religious beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm glad my ex and I were able to come to an agreement about homeschooling when we divorced.

Our son was only 3 when we separated, but I knew I was going to homeschool him, and my husband had always gone along with the idea. Until we separated... when it came out that he didn't actually trust me to do it on my own. He was only okay with it so long as he was there to make sure everything was up to snuff.

We managed to work it out, though, that I could homeschool as long as I did some kind of third-party standardized testing at the end of each school year starting in grade one. Then we would re-evaluate at grade 4.

If he was unhappy with the trends from the testing then we'd evaluate public schooling at that time.

Well, grade 4 came and went with not a word. Approaching 'grade 6' now and all is well. In fact, I think he's realized that homeschooling makes things EASIER as a divorced family, since our son can go back and forth for visits and go on camping trips with him etc etc according to whatever schedule is convenient for us, with no worries about missing school or schooltime taking away from 'daddy time' or whatever.

My guess is that this father in this case is more concerned about the ultra-conservative beliefs than about the actual schooling... And I'd probably be concerned too, though admittedly I don't know much about the specifics here. Still, it's tough, and he probably doesn't realize that he's undermining his own ease of visitation with the kids by slotting them into a regular public school calendar.

Bob Durtschi said...

To get an idea of the thinking of the liberal mind with regards to religion go read this post:

one quote:
“There are credentials for admission to our democratic society, credentials which we liberals have been making more stringent by doing our best to excommunicate racists, male chauvinists, homophobes, and the like. You have to be educated in order to be a citizen of our society, a participant in our conversation, someone with whom we can envisage merging our horizons. So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours.”