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Group Asks Court to Reconsider Removing Girl from Home School

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Fox News: A New Hampshire court's decision to order a 10-year-old home-schooled girl to attend public school is coming under attack from some social conservatives and religious freedom advocates.

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The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based organization that seeks to preserve religious liberty and the sanctity of marriage, has asked a family court judge to reconsider her July 14 decision to send the girl, identified in court documents as "Amanda," to a public school in Meredith, N.H.

"Parents have the fundamental rights to raise their children to the dictates of their conscience," the organization's attorney John Anthony Simmons told FOXNews.com.

Simmons noted that the girl was described in court documents as "academically promising" and interactive with her peers. "The court, in its own order, recognized this girl is performing well academically. So why are we changing her school environment?" he asked.

The girl's parents, Brenda Voydatch and Martin Kurowski, divorced shortly after her birth in 1999. According to court documents, Kurowski wants his daughter to attend public schools because he believes home-schooling deprives her of socialization skills. A guardian ad litem, essentially a fact finder for the court, agreed, and that recommendation was approved by Judge Lucinda Sadler.

"[E]ducation is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things," the court order read. "[A] child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings in order to grow to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve a productive and satisfying life."

But Simmons says the court has effectively taken away Voydatch's right, as the girl's primary-custody parent, to make decisions regarding her future, despite the fact that she enrolled the girl in three public school courses to assuage concerns of her former husband.

"It is not the proper role of the court to insist that [the girl] be 'exposed to different points of view' if the primary residential parent has determined that it is in Amanda's best interest not to be exposed to secular influences that would undermine [the girl's] faith, schooling, social development, etc.," Simmons wrote in court documents.

He says the court erred by agreeing with the guardian ad litem's assessment that the girl was found to "lack some youthful characteristics," in part because she "appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on question of faith," according to court documents.

"The line that the court crossed here is saying that you're too sincere in your religious beliefs," Simmons said. "That's the concern here."

But Kurowski's attorney, Elizabeth Donovan, said the ruling was based on the girl's isolated learning environment, and not on her mother's religion. She said the girl's home-schooling consists of "sitting in the corner of her mother's bedroom," where she receives her lessons on a computer screen.

"My client is concerned because of the isolation that is borne of that and the lack of exposure to the broader culture at large," Donovan said. "People of different heritage, people of different culture, tolerance, group problem-solving, making friends, losing friends -- all of the things that come with a public school education."

Donovan said Kurkowski has previously taken the girl to church and has no objections to her exposure to religion.

"When two parents with joint decision-making responsibility disagree and they cannot come to any common ground, we submit it to the court," she said. "The court takes all the testimony and the court renders a decision. Mrs. Voydatch didn't like the decision."

Simmons said he is prepared to appeal the case in state Supreme Court if the judge does not reconsider her ruling.

"This is a situation where home schooling is doing just fine," Simmons said. "We're asking for the court to reconsider."

Rob Reich, a political science and ethics professor at Stanford University who has written several papers on home-schooling, said Kurkowski's wishes for his daughter's education should be considered.

"His preference, as a general matter, ought to count for something," Reich told FOXNews.com. "It would be peculiar not to attribute any standings to the preferences of the father. It just so happens in this case you can't split the difference down the middle."

But Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based conservative think tank, said the New Hampshire court has "overstepped itself" in the case.

"I don't see why her faith should have any bearing at all on the decision made by the court," London told FOXNews.com. "The fact that she is a devoted Christian should not in any way influence the court's decision."

The ruling reflects a "radical secularism" of sorts, where any public display of religion is considered to be "wrongheaded," London said. "With sufficient pressure, [the court] will have to reconsider. It's really inappropriate for it to be making decisions of this kind."

Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said he's hopeful the "inappropriate and unreasonable" ruling will be reconsidered.

"The court has taken a step too far," Donnelly said, adding that the ruling appears to be "hostility against home schooling or religion -- or both."

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Dani September 2, 2009, 9:19 AM

I do not think home schooling should be an option for anyone unless they have special circumstances (a severe health issue or severe behavioral issue). It is not healthy for a child/children to be under their parents thumb 24/7. Parents and children need time apart. Kids need to interact with others and learn happiness and disappointment alike. Its how they grow as a person. If parents are doing their jobs properly they will be instilling good morals, good judgement and good decision making and then those kids need to go to school and apply those important lessons to every day life. It is just unhealthy and creepy to have your kidswith you round the clock, you are setting them up for social and professional failure in the future. They will not have proper bonds with people for friendships and relatonships and not have the proper problem solving and negotiation skills for business in the future. It will do more damage then good in the end.

HomeschooledKid September 2, 2009, 9:24 AM

What a load of crap. I was homeschooled as a child and had plenty of opportunities to “academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings in order to grow to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve a productive and satisfying life.”

As a teenager I was often said to be more mature, thoughtful, and wiser than other teenagers. So what if this girl has a strong faith compared to most other teens? Is that wrong? Is it wrong to lack the immaturity of youth?

Another primary example of the dumbing down of American youth and the indoctrination of individualism. Religious faith should not be taken into account when determining whether a child should be better of in public school or homeschooled. I know for many the choice to homeschool is based on the desires of parents to have their children be educated in a non-secular environment. But, by choosing to transfer this girl to a public school because of her Christian faith is nonsense.

The only reason public school should be considered is if she can not keep up academically or socially with her peers. It appears that this is not the case.

HomeschooledKId September 2, 2009, 9:41 AM

Homeschooling can be very beneficial for children regardless of whether there are underlying circumstances that prevent them from getting a good education in a public school.

Homeschooling receives a poor rap because of the families who do try to shelter their children in strict religious environment. This does set children up to fail because they have no idea what goes on in the real world.

The majority of homeschooled kids are more socially and academically adept, and tend to have higher self-esteem and are more independent than their peers.

It’s also a steroetype that homeschooled children aren’t social, attend school in their pajamas, are major religious fanatics, etc. The truth is a lot of homeschooled have normal schedules and strict schedules and are just like any other kid who happens to do their schooling at home. Homeschooled children don’t have to participate in the stupid fluff homework and activities that are often required of children in public school to fill up schedules. They can focus more on subjects that are more difficult to master, advance more quickly in their studies when the opportunity arises, take extra classes that may not be available, participate in more extracurricular activities than their peers.

When I look back, I am glad I was homeschooled. I went to public school for awhile, but homeschooled during high school using a very challenging academic program. It was rough. College was very easy for me as a result. Now, I see my friends who both homeschooled or went to public school. Both are equally successful. I will say every single one of my homeschooled friends has a highly successful career, but I may have friends who went to public school, graduated college and still work in retail.

A decision to homeschool a child should be made by the parents and the parents alone. They know what is best for a child and can teach the child according to their individual needs-something more difficult to get in a public school. And, they aren’t around their parents 24/7. Every family I know who homeschooled is more active and at home less than anyone else I knew. I was busier than all my friends.

Mandy September 2, 2009, 9:57 AM

Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness with strong faith i wish i could have been home schooled i had many many cultural and social interaction at Christian meetings and during christian activities. Many parents teach there children to treat those with differing faiths very much including Jehovah’s Witness children awful and with zero respect. For children in those circumstances it would be better to home school and let them get social skills with people who don’t downgrade there faith. I know that many supream court cases have been fought by Jehovah’s Witness so that there children would not be forced to attend activities against there faith and i do belive it this case makes it to them it will be overturned.

Homeschoolmom September 2, 2009, 10:32 AM

I can’t tell you irritated and sick I am of this issue! My son has been homeschooled since 1st grade and is entering 10th. His sister attended public school through graduation. The difference in their social skills??? Absolutely none!!! Aside from the fact that my son is much politer than my daughter was at that age, there is NO difference! I did not choose to homeschool for religious reasons but for the fact that our school district was not equipped to deal with a child as intelligent as my son and chose to target him as different. I’m so sick of hearing about how he needs that social environment in order to be a complete, secure adult. Have people not read the news about bullying at school? Suicides at school? Seriously, when are we going to learn that public school isn’t a good, strong, positive experience for everyone? And we, as the parents, need to take responsibility for raising our children to become strong, secure, responsible adults!
And yes, with a genius level IQ and college education in child psychology and child development I am very qualified to teach my son!

anonymos September 2, 2009, 10:47 AM

What I don’t understand is why this ruling is to force the girl into public school. Why can’t she attend a religious school of her mother’s choosing? It satisfies the father’s request of traditional schooling and the mother’s desire to have her raised in a religious environment. If the father is the one that wants her in a traditional school he should be willing to spend some money on a private school if it’ll be better for everyone.


In my experience I haven’t met a single homeschooled child that has normal social skills for their age. The younger children I’ve met are afraid to leave their parent’s side, the teenagers and college aged students didn’t know what was and was not appropriate to say to other people during a normal conversation. Sure they were confident, but they were too confident, they had no problems saying stuff that was belittling to others because they had no experience in how that would make a classmate feel. They were so used to being the best student in their class that they didn’t know how to cope in college when they didn’t get the highest grade, or the courses went too fast or slow for their liking.

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