November 27, 2018

Policy-Making Under the Guise of Judging Undermines a Parent’s Right to Homeschool in Georgia Courts

Back in the summer, I wrote about a very disappointing ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that undermined the God-given fundamental right of parents to make decisions for their children.

As I have noted for years now, the culture in our country is not supportive of the concept that families should be able to raise their children as they see fit. Judges overruling the decisions of fit parents has been an especially harmful manifestation of this.

In response to this threat, THSC has been pursuing legislation for several years now that would restore the legal support for the fundamental right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.

Judge Stephen Dillard, Chief Justice of the Georgia Court of Appeals, recently addressed this very issue related to a court that had wrongly substituted the court’s opinion for the parents’.

The case was a custody dispute in which the lower court ordered the mother to place her child in a private school instead of continuing to homeschool the child. The Court of Appeals reversed that order.

Judge Dillard’s statement is a heavy criticism of the lower court’s abusive decision against the family. It reads in part:

Our trial courts must be mindful in every case involving parental rights that, regardless of any perceived authority given to them by a state statute to interfere with a natural parent’s custodial relationship with his or her child, such authority is only authorized if it comports with the long-standing, fundamental principle that ‘[p]arents have a constitutional right under the United States and Georgia Constitutions to the care and custody of their children.’

In this respect, the Supreme Court of the United States has acknowledged that ‘[t]he liberty interest … of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children—is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests ….’ And while a parent’s right to raise his or her children without state interference is largely expressed as a ‘liberty’ interest, the Supreme Court of the United States has also noted that this right derives from ‘privacy rights’ inherent in the text, structure, and history of the federal constitution…

…the trial court appears to have given little, if any, consideration of the mother’s constitutionally protected liberty interest in deciding to homeschool her child. Indeed, without even referencing the significant liberty interests at stake, the court questioned and undermined the mother’s choices regarding her child’s education, ordering her to enroll the child in the Montessori school to ‘ensure the child is not ‘homeschooled’’ based on its ‘own beliefs as to the child’s best interest[.]’

And while the trial court may be right that it would be more ‘convenient’ for the child to attend the Montessori school because the mother works there, a parent’s constitutional right to make educational choices for his or her child is not limited to those a judge (or any other state actor) deems to be convenient or wise. Thus, even if the trial court had been authorized to modify the parents’ custody agreement (which it was not), it did not reference any evidence of the compelling circumstances necessary to substitute its own preferences as to the child’s education for the mother’s decision to homeschool her child. And when state actors engage in this sort of Orwellian policymaking disguised as judging, is it any wonder that so many citizens feel as if the government does not speak for them or respect the private realm of family life.

We see exactly this kind of action happening in the courts across the state of Texas and we will again seek legislation to stop this overreach of judges against families in the next Texas Legislative session.

We believe in empowering parents to raise and educate the next generation of leaders, which is why THSC is Keeping Texas Families Free. Sign up to receive legislative updates from our team on the ground in Austin so that you can stay up-to-date on legislation related to the rights of Texas families.

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November 20, 2018

Change in Texas House Leadership (This Could be a Good Thing)

After a decade of being blocked by a moderate Republican Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, pro-family legislation may now stand a chance under new Texas House leadership of Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

Ten years ago 11 moderate Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives joined forces with 64 Democratic members to replace conservative Representative Tom Craddick as the Speaker of the Texas House with Representative Joe Straus. For the next 10 years, Texas House Speaker Straus would go on to block countless pro-family legislative initiatives, including several from THSC and the homeschool community.

Freedom Caucus Organizes to Take Charge of Texas House

The Republican Caucus in the Texas House, lead by a small group of Republican members known as “The Freedom Caucus,” changed the rules of the Republican Caucus to say that Republicans would meet together and elect by majority vote with a secret ballot one of their own to run for Speaker of the Texas House. With that rule change, Speaker Straus announced his retirement.

After a months-long campaign by some five Republican Texas House members, a group of about 40 Republicans decided to draft Representative Dennis Bonnen as the member most would support for Speaker. Representative Bonnen, who had previously said he was not interested in running for the spot, announced the following week and instantly became the front-runner with 40 votes. In a matter of two weeks, he had secured the support of all but a handful of Republicans and held a press conference to announce that fact.

Pro-Family Conservatives Have Reason to Hope for Better Results in 2019 Legislature

Representative Bonnen was rated by Rice University’s non-partisan assessment as being in the top 25 most conservative House members. Bonnen met recently with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to discuss the upcoming legislative session and they pledged to work together to have a successful session. Pro-family conservatives are cautiously optimistic that legislation that has failed to pass in the last few years may now move forward.

This development could be a good sign for families and homeschoolers, as well as for THSC’s legislative agenda. We’ll keep you updated as things develop.

Would you be a part of bringing pro-family legislation in the 2019 Texas Legislature by supporting the THSC Watchmen with a gift of $25, $50 or $100 today?

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November 13, 2018

The 2018 Midterm Elections (Keeping Eternal Vigilance)

The 2018 midterm elections were historic in Texas and the whole country. As THSC reported, they were mixed results with something for everyone, but also raised serious concerns for the future.

The endless fight between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party put the political battleground under extreme pressure in Texas.

Democratic candidates failed to win any statewide races (Republicans have held every statewide office for the last 20 years), but Beto O’Rourke’s $70 million dollars, campaign organization and voter registration across the state of Texas resulted in a massive turnout that flipped 12 new seats in the Texas House and 2 seats in the Texas Senate from Republican to Democrat. This list included several strong, pro-family champions whose defeat could negatively impact the 2019 legislative session.

Democratic Judges a Threat to Family Freedoms

However, what many are overlooking is that Democrats also swept nearly all of the judicial races in Austin, Dallas and Houston, including 31 contested appellate court seats.

Numerous pro-family, strict constitutionalist judges whom Texas families could rely on were caught in the wave and lost re-election. This will have tremendous consequences in the coming years as the courts suffer the dearth of these strong judges. One candidate commented that this election was “the end of the rule of law at the appeals courts in Texas.“

While that may be slight hyperbole, based on the tremendous partisan struggle over judges at the federal level and the battle over the Kavanaugh hearings, it is probably not far from the truth. The good news is that the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals still have a majority of pro-family, constitutionally-minded judges.

Six-Fold Increase in Harassment by Public School Officials

As I have reported recently, THSC is seeing an unprecedented increase of school district officials refusing to follow the TEA guidelines for the withdrawal of students from public schools in order to homeschool.

What in many cases can only be described as harassment by these officials is very troubling and we are taking action to intervene for local families and to address the problem at a state level as well. This is just another reason why having judges who interpret the laws rather than “legislate from the bench” is critical.

All of this means that the old adage which says eternal vigilance is the price of freedom is still true. THSC will continue to work to defend the families of Texas: everything from school district officials to CPS workers or bad legislation. Thank you for standing with us.

We believe in empowering parents to raise and educate the next generation of leaders. Consider partnering with THSC today by joining or making a tax-deductible year-end gift to support our work of Keeping Texas Families Free.

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November 6, 2018

THSC Interventions for Families Leaving Public School (A Six-Fold Increase From 2017)

Families withdrawing their children from public school to homeschool encountered 600 percent more problems with public school officials based on calls to THSC for help. Yes, that’s right, a six-fold increase!

THSC intervened on behalf of our members for each of these issues to hold public school district officials accountable to follow the law and the policy of the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

THSC has contacted the Commissioner of Education at the TEA to bring the problem to his attention and ask him to reiterate the proper way that public school officials should deal with families withdrawing their children to homeschool.

Why is this happening?

We have not received a response from most of the school officials with which we’ve corresponded. It could be that new employees are not familiar with the long-standing policy of the TEA that has been in place since 1995 and most recently updated to school officials in 2016.

However, it could also be that school officials have seen recent news coverage on homeschooling from earlier this year.

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News both ran stories calling for increased regulation on homeschooling in Texas. THSC provided one opinion piece in response to these two news articles.

Bottom line?

We are concerned that the dramatic increase in harassment of homeschool families by public school employees is in response to the targeting of homeschool families by the media. It may continue to get worse unless action is taken to enforce the laws and policies protecting homeschool families in Texas.

Why does this matter?

This troubling development is one important reason families should clearly and confidently know what the law requires from those withdrawing their children from public school in order to homeschool. THSC exists to be sure Texas families are “in the know” and will recognize problems. Any time a family encounters problems, they should contact THSC for help and a solution.

I can’t emphasize this enough:

It is imperative that those who support the God-given right of families to raise their children as they see fit should vote early in the upcoming election for candidates who support the critical liberty for Texas families. You can find a list of THSC-endorsed candidates for your area here.

Please vote and to join with THSC in Keeping Texas Families Free!

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