January 28, 2015
The State of Parental Rights in America 2015
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.
Medical Freedom – Hospitals:
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.
Medical Freedom Elsewhere
But the hospital isn’t the only place your parental rights are at risk.
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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
What Can Be Done?
There is hope! This year more states than ever before have taken up parental rights legislation to protect families from state agency intrusion. And a proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is planned for introduction in Congress in the weeks ahead. Once adopted, the PRA will guard the fundamental right of parents to make decisions – medical, educational, in fact all kinds of decisions – for their children.
To join the effort, sign the petition at parentalrights.org/petition.
To further support parental rights, visit parentalrights.org/donate.
As I have been homeschooling my children for 11 years we have come to learn that each child is different. With my youngest being autistic and struggles with learning these suggestions have now been taken into consideration. My older children didn’t have the problems my son has such as environmental (easily distracted, difficulty with holding pencils, (texture), being scared of common objects (eyesight issues).
A few months back I had a discussion with my son’s eye doctor about him not keeping on his glasses. The doctor informed me that he has found if the glasses are helping a child to see they will keep them on no matter how much they don’t like them. If they are not helping his eyesight he won’t, which could be why we were fighting him to keep them on. This can make your schooling environment more difficult!
Little things such as textures, surroundings, and auditory sounds are now something to be taken into consideration now more than ever thanks to allergies, functioning disorders, ADHD, and autism. Objects and surroundings that didn’t affect students in previous years are now becoming top priority in a child’s academic success.
I have found that my son will do better with a bigger shaped pencil then a skinny, regular #2 pencil that I used to use. Maybe he can hold it better I don’t know but it is something to consider in trying to get him to write. Sometimes a certain flashcard will scare him and then we have to spend time determining what the issue is.
The article below from HSLDA member Krisa Winn may give you more suggestions on ways to make things a little simpler and a more productive learning environment for your child! I really liked the suggestion of giving your child a few worksheets instead of a workbook to go through because for them it might feel insurmountable, keep it simple.
Calming Stormy Behavior
By Krisa Winn
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant
Are you anxious and exhausted because of your child’s frequent behavior meltdowns? Have you concluded that something has to change because what worked with your other children is not working now? If so, this newsletter is for you.
About the Author
Obviously, there is much that can be said on this subject. My intent is to present general suggestions to get you thinking and exploring. Yes, maybe your child has autism or some other diagnosis, but why does he cry when it’s time to start math?
Does the texture of the workbook pages bother him? Is he hungry? Is there something going on outside (a daily siren or other environmental noise) that bothers him just as math begins each day? Was he engaged in a much-loved activity and doesn’t know any other way to describe his disappointment in having to stop?
These are all things to consider. I hope that what follows will help bring some calm to otherwise stormy behavior.
I know it is exhausting and discouraging to weather those behavior meltdowns. It’s emotionally draining for everyone. Not only that, but meltdowns are huge time stealers—which adds to your worries: “How will we ever finish geometry if this continues?”
Sometimes it takes hours for things to get back to normal. That’s why it is so important to take the time before the storm to help your child learn to regulate his or her emotions and behavior. At first, your child may need your help in this, much like he or she needed your help in order to fall to sleep as a baby. In time, you will move to a less supportive role, and your child will be able to regulate himself independently. It’s all a process.
Here’s a very practical calming activity to teach a younger child. When I taught kindergarteners, I always had a STAR sign (a star glued to a large craft stick) near my chair. I taught my students what to do when they saw that sign: S-Stop, T-Take a deep breath, A-And, R-Relax. We practiced it a lot, so that when one or more of my students was melting down, they knew what to do when I raised the sign.
Dr. Karyn Purvis, director of the institute of child development at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and author of the book, The Connected Child, offers many intervention activities to use with children of all ages. For instance, you may help your teen devise a plan for what he will do when a certain situation triggers an emotional outburst. You do this when things are peaceful, not in the heat of the moment. It could be as simple as having him write out: “When _______ happens, I will ________.”
Even with older children, Dr. Purvis plays and has fun as she helps them learn healthy ways to relate to others. She encourages families to teach strategies for handling stressful situations through a playful, peaceful, joyful manner. She notes that it’s hard to be mean when you’ve played with someone.
Dr. Purvis’ passion is to help families who have adopted children from “hard places,” but the principles she presents are applicable to most, if not all children. Her website is here.
Rethink the Environment
Simple changes in the physical environment of your learning space could make a huge impact in your child’s behavior.
• Some people use a tension rod and simple curtain to hide shelves containing school materials such as notebooks, textbooks, and supplies. It reduces clutter some children may find overwhelming and distracting.
• Look at your child’s workspace. Are her feet dangling from the kitchen chair? Or is she bent over a table that is too small? Providing a chair and table the appropriate size for your student is best and will most likely help him or her stay focused.
• If you are conducting an activity on the floor, consider defining the space. In other words, help your child see and possibly even feel where the activity is taking place. To do this, you could use a rug, carpet squares, carpet samples, or even a blanket.
• Along those same lines, your student may do better sitting on a therapy ball or t-seat or using a foot fidget device. You can find these and similar products on website such as School Specialty or Special Needs Toys.
• If noises are troublesome, have your student wear headphones when he needs to concentrate. I’m thinking of the big, cushiony headphones, not earbuds; so that environmental noises are greatly reduced.
• Sometimes using a tri-fold stand (such as a science fair presentation board) helps to limit visual distractions. Using two folders on end is another option for creating a private “office” for your child. Open each folder to a 90-degree angle, and then bring the two ends together to form a “U” shape. Voila! A smaller, easy-to-stow tri-fold stand is created!
• Perhaps your child is actually over-stimulated by the movement, songs and sounds, smells, and teaching aids you use throughout the day. If you have a lot of posters and other things to look at, try taking those down and see if that helps. If you’re using CDs for music, try singing the songs without accompaniment.
• For students who shut down immediately upon eyeing the size of a textbook, Sue Patrick suggests simplifying textbooks by removing the spine and hole-punching the pages. This way, individual chapters or sections of the book are presented instead of the entire book at once. Sue also encourages parents to modify worksheets so that they are less cluttered and more “to the point.” This takes extra time, energy and planning, but the results could be well worth it.
• Along with furniture and room accessories, consider these factors: noises, smells, lighting, color, clothing, temperature, and food as other potential triggers to meltdowns. However, certain sounds, smells, lights, and colors can have a calming and positive effect. It’s important to provide a solid sensory diet based on your child’s needs. Weighted blankets, a rocking chair, a mini-trampoline, essential oils, are examples of items that might be found in a calming corner or sensory section of your homeschool.
In addition to the physical environment, take into account the less tangible aspects of your child’s environment. Dr. Purvis teaches parents to create an environment of predictability and control. I’ll address predictability in the next section. For now, I’d like to focus on creating an environment of control.
I once heard someone say that stress can be boiled down to one problem—a perceived lack of control. Sometimes giving a child appropriate levels of control can be as simple as offering meaningful choices: “Do you want to wear your tennis shoes or sandals?” “Do you want to complete your reading assignment first or work on English?”
Offering these types of choices goes a long way in making relational connections with your child. You’re creating an atmosphere that reduces stress which in turn reduces the fighting, the melting down, and avoidance.
Sometimes children have difficulty changing gears. They feel a need to continue in the activity that they are currently engaged in, even when it’s in their best interest not to do so.
One way to help with this is to give verbal reminders of what is about to happen next. I mentioned this before in my “Tools for your Teaching Tool Box” newsletter, but it bears repeating. Starting at five minutes, you could say, “In five minutes we are going to meet at the couch for story time.” Do it again in three minutes, then one minute. If verbal reminders aren’t enough, you might invest in a Time Timer clock,(available at most school supply stores/catalogs) for a very visual reminder of how much time remains before a new activity begins.
Most children on the autism spectrum function better with a predictable schedule. Depending on your child’s age and development, a visual schedule may be in order as well. I’ve heard of some moms adding a “?” card to the daily schedule to represent those times of the day that don’t go exactly as planned. You can find resources for creating a visual schedule online.
Like environment, there is another aspect to being predictable. It’s important for YOU to be predictable—as much as possible. Your child needs to know that she can count on you to be consistent, even when she lashes out. If you lose your temper or display aggravation, model humility and ask for forgiveness. Especially for children who have attachment disorders, your consistent demonstration of unconditional love is huge!”