You may have heard about a North Carolina judge’s pending order that may place three children in public schools this fall because the home-schooling their mother provided over the last four years needs to be “challenged.”
This case should deeply concern every American who values parental rights and the freedom to make the best educational choices for their children.
As a part of the ongoing and contentious divorce case of Thomas and Venessa Mills, Wake County District Court Judge Ned Magnum issued the ruling March 6. Since then, home-schooling supporters have flooded Wake court officials in protest, according to The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC.
In ordering the children to attend a public school, Judge Magnum said that while the Mills children are “thriving,” they need to be exposed to the “real world.” Their father has objected to the children being exposed to a “religious-based science curriculum.”
“It will do them a great benefit to be in the public schools, and they will challenge some of the ideas that you’ve taught them, and they could learn from that and make them stronger,” Mangum told Venessa Mills in an early March court hearing, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Yet it is parents, not judges, who are responsible for determining the best education options for their children.
The under-reported facts in this case are that the children were in public schools before their mother began home-schooling them in 2005 and that the children tested at or above their grade levels—by as much as two years after their home-schooling experience.
In putting his judgment above that of the mother’s, Judge Magnum was acting far above his pay grade. It is not the judge’s business to make sure these children have a “well rounded education,” as he said during the court hearing.
For a judge to take such action, he or she must have a compelling reason, such as the mother endangering the children, or compelling evidence that education is not taking place. In this case, the mother is not putting her children in danger and the Mills children’s test scores reportedly reflected improvement after several years of home education.
This is an example of what happens when judges run amuck, and it is reflective of the growing assault on parental rights in this country.
If attacks like this one continue, it is not beyond my imagination that we could see lawmakers in our country drafting legislation like exists in Germany today. German parents are forbidden from teaching their children at home, as the country sees “a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
We are not there yet, but a devastating decline can often begin with a seemingly insignificant downward step.
Please pray for this mother and those who are trying to help her overcome this judge’s ruling. Remember this family that is being torn apart by divorce. The final order in this divorce case has not been written. Please pray for our nation’s leaders and policy makers that they would value and protect families, in general, and parental rights, in particular.
Parents, not judges, should have the final say in where and how their children are educated.
Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith.