In a decision that will no doubt have home-schooling parents everywhere spitting mad, a judge in North Carolina has ordered three children in the midst of a divorce proceeding be sent back to public school.
But don’t pull out the pitchforks yet moms and dads – this comes down to religion . . . or quasi-religion anyway.
Judge Ned Mangum has granted Thomas Mills and his now ex-wife, Venessa, joint custody of their three kids, ages ten, eleven and twelve. But he’s over-ruled Venessa’s request that she be able to continue their home-schooled curriculum, which includes swimming lessons, piano and instruction via Web Cam from Sound Doctrine, a Washington-based church group described by some as a cult.
It’s the Sound Doctrine work that concerns Thomas Mills, who has said in court affidavits that after getting involved in the church (online), his wife withdrew and became a different person from the woman he married. While his wife called on evidence that their kids have tested at least two grades above grade level in the program, he countered with witnesses who testified to the “church’s” leader making lascivious and inappropriate statements about young girls and called on Venessa’s mother to speak out against her daughter’s practices as a parent.
Check out the church site for yourself (or this scathing look at its philosophies) – see if you agree with kids being taught to “keep yourself in the fear
of God and do not seek too much freedom. Restrain all your passions
under discipline and do not give yourself to foolish mirth.” OK sheep-le, no laughing, no showing passion for anything and for God’s sake, you are NOT free. You are oppressed, kids, and that is good.
Their other site, by the way, is down not because it’s under construction but “at the Lord’s direction.”
Still, Venessa Mills is earning a band of supporters – home-schooling parents who say the judge’s decision puts their decisions to home-school at risk, even though they have no personal affiliations with Sound Doctrine. Says the parent who created Home School Liberty, “I suddenly realized that if I do not stand up and take action I might
lose my parental right to teach my children according to my own beliefs
I have several home-schooling friends who are doing a fine job – and know plenty of home-schooled kids who can attest to its success, so I’d agree that protecting parents’ rights to home-school is important. But this case may well be a litmus test of where states should – or at least can – draw the line on what a home-school curriculum entails.
Is this an invasion of a parent’s right to choose a lifestyle for their kids? Or is this appropriate use of the state’s power?