Judge Overturns Ruling to Remove Children from Custody of Homeschool Parents

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An egregious ruling to place a Duncanville family’s seven children in state custody despite any allegation of abuse or neglect has been reversed. According to the Texas Home School Coalition, the original ruling was retaliation for homeschooling the family’s adopted and biological children.

A new hearing was held just this week on the family’s appeal challenging the jurisdiction of a judge who ruled that their children be placed in foster care. According to a Facebook page supporting the Tutts family, a second judge ruled that the family’s children should not have been removed. One son from a previous marriage is with his biological father, and two children in the process of being adopted are not now with the family.

A caseworker was assigned after a four-year-old autistic boy placed with the family by the Texas Child Protective Services wondered down the block. He was shortly returned when Mr. Tutts was out actively searching. Unsettled that 13 children were at the residence, including six recently placed in their care by CPS, the responding officer triggered an investigation. After visiting the home to find the parents were polite and cooperative, a CPS caseworker ordered a psychological screening and parenting classes. The caseworker is reported as saying, “Nobody in their right mind would want to stay home all day with so many children!”

The parents, who incidentally volunteer to council at-risk youth in foster care, produced the required documentation at the next home visit, but a surreptitious hearing was held two weeks later that the parents were neither invited to attend nor made aware of. One week later, the children were forcibly removed from the home by armed county constables. Ignoring state law that there has to be evidence of abuse or the threat to a child’s safety, the judge ordered the children be removed. When the mother requested the children be placed with friends or family, as the CPS guidelines instruct, the request was dismissed.

In a custody hearing on Dec. 16, the children’s mom submitted to three hours of testimony. The state’s attorney didn’t level charges of abuse or neglect, as defined under the Texas Family Code. The infraction was that they didn’t send their children to governments schools and don’t submit to a state-approved homeschool curriculum, which doesn’t even exist in the state. Even if the parents poorly educate their children, that does not meet the state’s standard for neglect. After the 12-hour hearing, the judge ruled to keep the children in CPS custody at a foster home.

With that decision reversed, the family is still under court supervision, and the children have to attend government school in the meantime.

Image credit: Jimmie, with a Creative Commons license