A nightmare legal scenario for one Texas family has resulted in a judge telling the parents they cannot home school their children and must undergo a psychological evaluation while the kids are tested academically and kept in public school.
It is the latest twist in the case of the Tutt family, who are adamant their children are on pace academically but who have become stuck in a slow-moving system that has defied common sense from the get-go.
As Off The Grid News reported, the Tutts’ seven children were taken from them by police on Nov. 21 following an apparent botched investigation by a CPS worker. The worker previously had visited the family after a four-year-old child with autism had wondered away from the house, although the worker supposedly said she had no concerns about the parents. But the worker then signed a document that resulted in the children being removed.
The Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), which is supporting the family, says the children were taken from the home illegally with no just cause, and that only after their removal did the judge, CPS and the court-appointed guardian ad litem – who supposedly represents the child’s interests – begin making home schooling an issue. There are no concerns about the safety of the children.
On January 7, Judge Tena Callahan allowed four of the seven children to return to the parents, although she said the children must remain in public school while the parents undergo a psychological evaluation. During this time the children will be tested by an “educational expert,” THSC reported. (Of the other three children, one is with a father from a previous marriage, one was a pending adoption whose status is unknown, and the other was a pending adoption whose biological parents have requested to be reunited.)
The judge said she “wanted to make sure the Tutts’ children were not so far behind their peers academically” – an assertion that the Tutts reject. Callahan has not ruled out allowing the parents to home school again, but the fact that the parents must get “evaluated” in order to exercise their rights is ludicrous, says Tim Lambert, THSC president.
“While we are grateful that some of the Tutts’ children have been returned to them, it is astounding that a judge is now saying, in spite of CPS’s acknowledgment that everything is fine, that the children will remain in public school while the parents and children are tested,” Lambert wrote.
The children now have been out of their normal home school environment nearly two months. Supporters of the Tutts sounded off on Facebook and on the THSC website. The fact that this case is happening in America — and not in, say, Germany, where home schooling is illegal — has only added to the consternation of supporters.
“I still don’t understand why I never hear of a judge ordering public school kids to undergo testing because they suspect them of being academically behind,” one commenter known as “Holly” wrote on the coalition’s site. “If they are behind, the judge should then order them to change to homeschooling or private school or charter school. Right?”
Another commenter made a similar point: “If they removed the children due to under performing academically, will they remove all the under performing public school children.”
The guardian had described the children as “brainwashed” and had said they were behind academically. Supporters of the Tutts said the children were frightened and intimidated when they met the guardian.
Lambert said the guardian’s view of the children was “unbelievable to the Tutts’ many friends and family who had witnessed [the childrens’] academic ability over the years.”
Typically, home school children excel academically.
The Tutts’ case is not the only instance where common sense took a back seat. Last year the Texas Home School Coalition sent a letter to a state judge who was considering rendering a court order preventing a different family from home schooling their children – despite the fact the children were ahead academically. The children ranked 83rd, 99th, 87th and 58th against their peers on state tests.
“It is a well-established fact among the education and sociological communities that home school students on average not only excel in education and areas of socialization, but actually surpass their peers educated in public schools,” the letter said.
Lambert said THSC will seek the removal of the first judge in the Tutts case – Judge Graciela Olvera – who discounted the Tutts’ arguments that children could not be kept out of a home for supposed academic concerns. Lambert also said there are plans to seek the discipline of the initial investigator, who allegedly said she had no concerns about the family then placed her name on a document that stated, “It is my opinion that there is imminent danger and the children are at risk of serious harm if left in the care of their parents.”
Said Lambert, “I have said for some time that the battle for home school freedom today is in the family courts and this case is more evidence of that. … Many judges view ‘the interest of the child’ to be justification to do almost anything as demonstrated here.”
Learn more about the case and sign a petition at www.thsc.org