Please see the newest State of Parental Rights in America report.
Last January’s “The State of Parental Rights in America” was so well received – and so helpful for informing parents and policy-makers about the growing parental rights issue – that we decided to make it an annual report.
Sadly, not a lot has changed in the past year, and much of what has changed has been for the worse. Progress has been made in a few states, but the overall picture remains grim. Here is an overview of parental rights in America as we begin 2015.
The Good News – Laws Protecting Families
Over the last two years, a handful of states have adopted legislation to protect the vital parent-child relationship. Nevada, Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kansas have all adopted new laws protecting the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. Notable among these is Oklahoma, whose “Parents’ Bill of Rights” draws clear lines of instruction that state agencies must follow, encouraging respect and parental involvement especially in the education and medical care of each child.
Several states have also reconsidered their involvement in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. (Common Core is a program promoting a privately owned and copyrighted set of national education standards for public schools. Its full implementation includes curricula-shaping testing and student data sharing. Critics on both sides of the aisle oppose the program, because it places power over local schools in the hands of large corporations and the federal government.) While many states have put Common Core implementation on hold, ten states have rejected the program entirely; Oklahoma, Louisiana, South Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Missouri have joined Texas, Virginia, and Alaska, who never signed on in the first place.
Unfortunately, these positive developments are only a small part of our parental rights review.
The Bad News – Hospitals:
Justina Pelletier finally made it home to her family in June of this year, after 16 months at the mercy of Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) and the State of Massachusetts Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). According to her doctors at Tuft’s Medical Center, the 17-year-old suffers from mitochondrial disease. But doctors at neighboring BCH diagnosed her instead with somatoform disorder – they believed her sickness was all in her head.
When Justina’s parents disagreed with BCH’s analysis, the hospital accused them of medical neglect and asked the state to take custody of her, which it did. Fit parents, backed by a fully licensed and well respected teaching hospital, lost custody of their daughter over a diagnosis dispute, and did not get her home for nearly a year and a half.
By the time it was over, the head of DCFS had resigned and the nation had been roused, but poor Justina’s body had been decimated for want of proper treatment. She is still struggling to recover.
In most states, the law is not on your side. The state of Illinois took Isaiah Rider from his mother, Michelle, because she sought multiple opinions for treating her son’s pain. The teen suffers from neurofibromatosis, and has already lost a leg to the debilitating condition. The state of Arizona has taken Hannah and Kayla Diegel from their mother, as well, over what essentially appears to be another diagnosis dispute over mitochondrial disease.
Medical Freedom Elsewhere
But the hospital isn’t the only place your parental rights are at risk.
Detroit resident Maryann Godboldo was arrested in 2011 after a 10-hour standoff with police and CPS who claimed she was not giving her daughter proper medication. The state later discontinued the medication as well, returned the daughter, and dropped the charges – until the appeals court and prosecutors in 2013 opted to go after her again. It wasn’t until March of 2014 that those charges were finally dropped as well.
Meanwhile, a family from Clarke County, Virginia, lost custody of their two children when a Child Services Worker – with no medical or psychological training – determined that the mother was suffering from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. This outdated term (now called “medical neglect”) refers to a psychological disorder whereby the affected parent is driven to claim that their child is sick in order to draw attention to themselves.
Never mind that medical tests ultimately found the cause of the family’s ongoing maladies. The social services worker’s unqualified diagnosis led to removal of the children from their home for several weeks, during which time both already-ill children were exposed to tuberculosis. The son also suffered a broken ankle, which the state refused to treat, insisting it was only a sprain.
The law is not on your side. Despite the legislative gains, most judges still rubber-stamp intrusive investigations into homes where no evidence exists of abuse or neglect, just because a case worker disagrees with the judgment of fit parents. And states continue to pass laws restricting the right of informed parents to make vaccination and mental health decisions for their children.
New laws in California, New Jersey, and now the District of Columbia make it illegal for teenagers struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to seek reparative therapy, even if the teen, the professional counselor, and both parents agree on the desired treatment. Similar bills have been introduced in Illinois and other states. This viewpoint discrimination takes decision-making rights away from parents and tramples the doctor-patient professional relationship.
The law is not on your side.
Public School Access:
Though we have not seen new accounts in 2014, the following stories from last year still stir our ire:
In Tennessee, a dad was arrested trying to pick up his special-needs daughter at the end of the school day.
In Georgia a mom was banned from her child’s public school because she posted a photo online of her new concealed carry permit. No threats to violate the “gun-free zone.” She simply earned her permit and was banned from the school.
The law is not on your side. Laws in a majority of states limit or entirely deny to parents any “right” to be present on school grounds where their child is in attendance. What’s more, some school districts have banned parents from sending a lunch with their child, requiring that they buy school-provided lunch instead. And a 2014 bill in New York would require that all parents attend state-provided parenting classes before their child can graduate the sixth grade.
Public School Content:
To say that American parents are concerned with the direction of our public schools would be an understatement. As mentioned above, a growing number of states are throwing out the Common Core, a set of “national curriculum standards” set up by the National Governors’ Association and required for schools to qualify for federal Race to the Top education funding.
The “standards” were adopted over the summer of 2010 without any review by parents or state legislatures. Last year, even the New York State Teachers’ Union voted to reject the standards, saying “We will be the first to admit it doesn’t work.” But the vast majority of states are still plowing ahead with the plan.
The law is not on your side as a parent. The Ninth Circuit in Fields v. Palmdale (2005) held that, “Parents…have no constitutional right…to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so.” (emphasis added)
And the First Circuit Court of Appeals in its Parker v. Hurley (2007) decision states, “Parents do have a fundamental right to raise their children. They are not required to abandon that responsibility to the state. [They] may send their children to a private school that does not … conflict with their religious beliefs. They may also educate their children at home.” (emphasis added) Essentially, they said that if parents want a say in what their children learn, they should keep them out of public schools. But even that may not be a permissible option for much longer, based on the ruling of 2014.
The Romeikes are a Christian German family who sought to teach their children at home according to their beliefs. But German law requires that all students attend state or state-approved schools. So the Remeikes fled to the U.S. in search of asylum.
In the case of Romeike v. Holder, the family argued that the right of parents to direct the education of their children is a fundamental human right, and that the denial of this right by the state of Germany constitutes tyranny. The Department of Justice argued to the contrary, that no such right exists and that if it does, its infringement by the government is still somehow acceptable.
In March of last year (2014), the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, allowing the lower court ruling – a ruling favoring the DOJ – to stand. The Romeikes’ asylum was revoked, and the right of parents to direct the education of their children was left on very shaky ground. (The Administration then reversed its deportation ruling and allowed the Romeikes to stay in the U.S., but the damage to parental rights remains.)
In fact, several academic journals over the last few years have featured claims by academic elites “that public education should be mandatory and universal.” Says Emory University Law professor Martha Albertson Fineman, “Parental expressive interest could supplement but never supplant the public institutions where the basic fundamental lesson would be taught and experienced by all American children: we must struggle together to define ourselves both as a collective and as individuals.”
In the last decade there have been at least 22 attempts to expand public pre-school education, at least 31 attempts to make kindergarten mandatory, and nearly 150 efforts in 43 states to otherwise expand the compulsory attendance age range for public schools. None of these measures has been shown to improve education outcomes; they only serve to give more control to the state and less control to parents as children develop and grow. Yet an effort to roll back one such law in Colorado failed just last week, never even getting out of committee.
Once again, the law is no longer on your side. And in terms of educational rights recognized in the courts, things are getting worse.
Bureaucrats Run Amok:
In Loudermilk v. Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, a federal district court ruled that Arizona social service case workers were protected by immunity when they forced their way into a family’s home without a warrant using threats of taking the couple’s children away. Such threats, according to the court, do not constitute coercion, so the parents’ Fourth Amendment rights – says the court – were surrendered voluntarily.
In California, a diabetic social services worker took a little girl from her mother’s care under the incorrect assumption that the diabetic girl’s blood sugar numbers should be comparable to her own. When checked at the local hospital, the little girl was found to be healthy and stable, her numbers improved from when she was recently diagnosed with the condition.
Yet social services workers and prosecutors withheld the doctor’s findings from the judge and parents through two separate hearings. They kept the child for more than a month before parents finally saw the report and had the child returned.
Meanwhile, social workers in Kentucky just a few years ago proved completely vindictive when one mother stood up to them. Social Services took her children, children of her relatives, and even removed the children of her lawyer from the lawyer’s home!
But the law is not on your side. Every state authorizes certain personnel – doctors, police, social workers (the list varies by state) – to remove your children from your care without a warrant, a court order, or any proof of abuse or neglect. In such an atmosphere, the abuses are getting worse every year.
Director of Communications & Research