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New Jersey Judge Scolds Mom for Home-Schooling, Throws “Judicial Temper Tantrum”

LifeSiteNews.com

By Meg Jalsevac

  TRENTON, March 7, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Honorable Thomas Zampino of the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has penalized a home-schooling mother of seven.   According to a report by Matt Bowman on the website constitutionallycorrect.com, the mother’s supposed infraction is home-schooling her children without supervision from the local school board - a right explicitly upheld in New Jersey law.

  According to the court’s opinion, Tara Hamilton is the defendant in a suit brought against her by her recently estranged husband, Stephen Hamilton.  Stephen brought the suit in an attempt to force Tara to enroll their school-age children, aged 12 to 4 years, in parochial school because he believes that they are not receiving an adequate education while being home-schooled.  All seven children currently reside with Tara.

  According to the court document, Stephen claims that "continued home schooling is not in the children’s best interest, they lack socialization skills and that it is too difficult for the mother to teach the children at five different grade levels. The father argues that the children are not receiving an education equivalent to a public or parochial school."

  Prior to the marital discord that led to this suit, the Hamiltons had similarly home-schooled all of their school-age children.

  In an effort to implement "certain basic requirements and safeguards", the judge ordered Tara to submit her home-schooling children to standardized tests supplied by the local school district despite NJ law which says, "A child educated elsewhere than at school is not required to sit for a state or district standardized test."

  The judge also ordered the local school board to file a suit against Tara in order to be able to "evaluate the instruction in the home," a requirement only permissible if the local school board determines that there is credible evidence that the home education is below the standards of the public school. 
 
  Because of NJ’s explicit laws protecting the parental right to educate their children at home, the judge had only limited options when it came to personally implementing his philosophies of "monitoring" and "registering" home-schoolers." The judge cautioned that, should the school board refuse to comply with his ‘suggestions’, the court would "consider, by formal opinion, a request to join those parties to action."  
 
  The New Jersey Department of Education website states, "The provision, "to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school," in N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25 permits parent(s)/guardian(s) to educate the child at home."  According to New Jersey law, parents desiring to home-school their children are not required to submit any type of communication of intent to a local school board.  Parents are also not required to have their home-school curricula approved by a school board.

  A NJ school board may only act against a home-schooling parent "If there is credible evidence that the parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a school-age child is not causing the child either to attend school (public or nonpublic) or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school…"  Under those circumstances, the school board is permitted to request the parents/guardians of a school age child provide proof, such as a letter of intent, that the child is receiving "equivalent instruction."

  The judge criticized the NJ law and lamented the fact that it upholds the rights of parents to home-school their children without interference from the government.  Implying that children being educated by their parents are unsupervised, the judge stated, "This is shocking to the court. In this day and age where we seek to protect children from harm and sexual predators, so many children are left unsupervised." 

  The judge continued, "In today’s threatening world, where we seek to protect children from abuse, not just physical, but also educational abuse, how can we not monitor the educational welfare of all our children?"  He then gave the case of a recently found starving child locked "in a putrid bedroom" as an example of what happens when home-schooled children are not "registered and supervised."

  In what Bowman refers to as a "judicial temper tantrum" the judge opines, "This is not an attack against home schooling, but rather a statement that it is necessary to register those children for whom this alternative is chosen and to monitor that their educational needs are being adequately nurtured. Judicial interpretation of the statute requires such steps to measure ‘equivalent instruction’ when the alternative ‘elsewhere than at school’ is chosen by parents." 

  Bowman commented on the judge’s circumvention of the law by requiring the school board to take the action that he could not, saying, "Well, state law does allow school districts to haul parents into court under state penal law if credible evidence exists that their children’s education is improper. Presto! Order the local school district to charge the mom with violation of penal law! Never mind that the school district is not a party to this divorce proceeding. Never mind that "[t]he mere fact that a child has been withdrawn to be home-schooled is not, in itself, credible evidence of a legal violation.""

  Bowman summed up the opinion saying, "The court’s opinion seethes with contempt for parental primacy in education, for large religious families, and for the democratic process itself. Instead of legal reasoning, the court disgustingly showcases the prospect of children "found unfed and locked in a putrid bedroom." 

  Bowman concluded by drawing a scary comparison between the actions of this activist NJ judge and the recent human rights violations against a home-schooling family in Germany.  "It can seem distant when we hear news of police raiding homes in Germany and abducting home-schooled children, but in our small world of judicial oligarchy and broken families, Germany is not so far away after all."

  To respectfully contact Jon Corzine, governor of New Jersey:

  Office of the Governor
  PO Box 001
  Trenton, NJ 08625
  609-292-6000

  See Constitutionally Correct web-page:
  constitutionallycorrect.com

  Read Justice Zampino’s full ruling:
  http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/decisions/hamilton070223.pdf

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