Last week I reported on the Tutts, a home schooling family who had their children removed by a Dallas County judge in what we believe was an illegal order. While the court date in front of a new judge is scheduled for January 7, and we are praying that the new judge will be reasonable and that the Tutts will have their children returned to them, I wanted to give an update.
As many of you are likely very aware, the outrage that this situation has generated has resulted in a high level of traffic on our website, which has caused an issue with slow loading, and I apologize for that. We are taking steps to resolve the technical aspect of the issue, but the site is still slow during peak times. At this point, more than 7,500 people have signed the petition calling for the return of the Tutts’ children to them, including more than 200 from outside the United States.
I mentioned in my report that I had written a letter to the guardian ad litem appointed by the judge to represent the interests of the children. I wrote this letter because after visiting their home the guardian ad litem had told the Tutts that she did not have concerns about the safety of the children, the Tutts’ parenting ability, or anything at all. Her only concern was the fact that in her opinion the children were behind academically and that therefore she would not agree to recommend to the court that the children be returned to their parents unless the Tutts agreed not to home school their children.
The guardian ad litem responded to my letter by saying, “Thank you for your information. Please do not contact me again unless I contact you. Your letter can be deemed as inappropriate contact and an attempt to influence a court-appointed guardian. I am required to conduct my own independent investigation and speak with all of the parties. If there is information I need from you I am glad to know I can contact you.” While I think this was an attempt to intimidate me, as was her copying the message to an official of the court, it didn’t work.
As I mentioned, my letter clearly laid out Texas law with regard to home schooling. I included a memo from the Texas Education Agency and a memo that included a policy statement from the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) that spells out how CPS should deal with allegations of abuse or neglect against home schooling families. I copied my letter to the commissioner of DFPS, to the assistant commissioner of CPS, and to the CPS educational program specialist in Austin who had signed the memo outlining this policy.
Later last week I received a call from that same CPS official who had signed the memo. She pointed out to me that in spite of the fact that the guardian ad litem did not seem to like or appreciate my letter, she believed it was accurate. She also offered to be a resource if necessary in the case.
During the discussion of this case on my blog, there were several readers who referred to the judge in question as a liberal, and some who challenged that this matter was not a conservative vs. liberal issue. I could not agree with the latter more. In fact, there are more Republican judges on our Texas Judicial Wall of Shame at this point than Democratic judges. The real issue is this: There are some judges who do not respect the fundamental right of fit parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children and instead believe that they have the right to make any decision that they believe is in “the best interest of the children.” Along with that low view of parental rights, these judges very often are not willing to require CPS to follow the restraints of the Texas Family Code, which includes protections for parents. These judges are most willing to give CPS caseworkers and attorneys whatever they ask for, in spite of what the law requires. In other words, they are overlooking the requirements of Texas statute for what CPS says is in “the best interest of the child.”
The grave travesty that has been perpetrated against the Tutt family is the result of a judge not doing what she is required to do under Texas law. Consequently, I suggest that the most effective way to deal with such judges is to make sure the public is aware of these types of abuses. Recently a Houston judge involved in a parental rights case, whom we highlighted on the Texas Judicial Wall of Shame, was also exposed for potentially unlawful actions in her court. While the district attorney failed to get an indictment against this sitting judge, the negative publicity resulted in three opponents in the Republican primary running against her in March.
The moral to that story is this: The best way to deal with judges who perpetrate these kinds of injustices is to expose them to the public and then defeat them at the ballot box. That is our plan. In addition, we will pursue other strategies that may include legal options, but those will be pursued later, after the children have been returned to their family. Our current focus is to bring as much public attention to this case as possible and to help the family get their children back.