May 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Government overreach is one thing. Over-enthusiastic government employees or jumpy law enforcement during a pandemic is another. We can tolerate these things — at least for a while. But when government appears to be a threat to our families, that is something else. That is the stuff of nightmares.
This brings me to a story out of Kentucky recently reported by the libertarian publication Reason. In early March, the parents of seven children who had recently moved to the Bluegrass State headed to the bank to open a new account. Being recent arrivals, they took their kids along.
That’s when the trouble started. According to Jim Mason of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Reason reported, “[b]y the time they had returned home from their errand, a child protective services caseworker and a law enforcement officer were waiting at the door to investigate them for child abuse.”
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Mason believes that this stunning overreaction is the result of widespread fear over COVID-19-based social distancing rules, and Reason obtained a copy of the letter from Child Protective Services that confirmed the story. The parents, who homeschool their children, left the two oldest in the car as they headed into the bank with the other five children, which featured a COVID-19 sign on the door. According to Jim Mason:
The teller immediately interrogated Bill and Kristy about why they had brought five kids into the bank at one time. She [the teller] told them they could not get within six feet of her and that they needed to take the children out. Kristy explained that the children were too young to be left unsupervised by an adult, and neither she nor Bill could take them elsewhere because the couple were opening a joint account, and both had to be present.
While Bill stayed with the children away from the counter, Kristy opened the account, feeling self-conscious as the staff whispered to each other and watched her family suspiciously. When Bill walked to the counter to show his New York ID and to sign, the bank staff asked why Bill's and Kristy's identifications were from different states, which the couple explained.
Back at home, the authorities confronted Bill and Kristy, who discovered that someone had called in an anonymous tip claiming that a mother of five had taken her children out with a man who wasn't their dad, and they had bruises on their arms that indicated rough grabbing.
According to Reason, the investigator “proceeded to question the kids away from the parents, and he made at least one of the boys take off his shirt to look for bruises. Kristy told Mason that the investigator wanted to do the same with the girls, but she objected, so he only pulled up the girls’ sleeves and took photos.” The investigator apparently did not wonder how a caller had spotted bruises on the arms of children wearing long sleeves in the first place.
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It appears that whoever called the authorities was deliberately attempting to get the parents in trouble. Bill and Kristy believe that it was someone who was inside the bank, as the caller had mentioned five children (the other two having been in the car). Additionally, the caller told lies specifically designed to set off warning bells, such as stating that the children appeared to have been physically abused as well as in the company of someone not their father.
The case, Reason noted, should have been cleared up quickly. Bill’s driver’s license quickly proved that he was the father, and the reported bruises were nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, it is often the case that an incident like this is just the beginning. Jim Mason told Reason that cases like this should be an “off ramp,” which means that if an investigator follows up on a call and finds nothing, he should simply leave (take the “off ramp.) But instead, “all too often investigators insist that they must robotically keep probing: opening cabinets, looking in the fridge, questioning kids. This Kentucky investigator even questioned the family about which homeschool curriculum they were using, as if that had some bearing on the case.” The Home School Legal Defense Association has been attempting to get legislation passed that will ensure that investigators who find no evidence of abuse or other issues simply leave the families in question alone rather than continuing to poke around.
HSLDA and other groups also want states to ban the sort of anonymous reports that had law enforcement show up at Bill’s and Kristy’s door based on deceit. They point out that it is easy for people to weaponize the process against parents and families they dislike and conjure a nonexistent case out of thin air. As Reason noted, lawyers are working with Bill and Kristy — “[b]ut the state gets 45 days to close an investigation, and Mason said it can easily get an extension, turning a time already tense with pandemic fears into a protracted period of torment.”
Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he interviews Scott Klusendorf about the fundamental flaw Klusendorf sees in the idea of locking down the country under the guise of preventing people from getting coronavirus.
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