A North Carolina district judge has ordered a homeschooling mom to send her three children to public school, saying that although they are "thriving" with higher-than-average marks, they lack exposure to the "real world."
As part of divorce proceedings between North Raleigh residents Thomas and Venessa Mills, last Friday Wake District Court Judge Ned Mangum told Mrs. Mills that it would be in the "best interests" of her children, ages 10, 11, and 12, to attend public school next fall. The children have been homeschooled according to a Christian-based curriculum for the past four years.
The verbal ruling reportedly came about because Mills’ estranged husband said he "objected to the children being removed from public school," as he was "concerned about the children’s religious-based science curriculum" and wants them "to be exposed to mainstream science, even if they eventually choose to believe creationism over evolution."
"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 Mrs. Mills at last week’s court hearing.
Venessa Mills said in court papers that the children socialize with others their age at homeschooler activities. She also emphasized their academic success, with two performing two grade levels above their age and one performing at grade level.
"These kids are doing well," Mills told the Charlotte Observer Thursday. "That’s why it’s such an injustice. It was an injustice for the kids."
Venessa Mills and her supporters claim that Thomas was a bad parent who engaged in an adulterous relationship. Thomas Mills admits to the affair.
The judge’s order is not yet official, and is expected to be formally pronounced in a written order within weeks. In the meantime, the story has elicited widespread outrage from conservatives and homeschooling families.
"If [Judge Magnum's] idea of socialization includes the need to challenge the Christian ideas their mother has taught them, then he not only interferes with her natural right to raise up her children, he tramples on one of the most important elements of the free exercise of religion," wrote conservative leader Alan Keyes on his blog.
Mills’ friend and fellow homeschooling mom Robyn Williams launched Homeschool Injustice, a website dedicated to overturning the order (http://www.hsinjustice.com/ ).
"I have never seen such injustice and such a direct attack against homeschooling," said Williams.
"This judge clearly took personal issue with Venessa’s stance on education and faith, even though her children are doing great. If her right to homeschool can be taken away so easily, what will this mean for homeschoolers state wide, or even nationally?"
Home school students and their parents plan to come to Raleigh on March 24 to lobby at the state Legislature, according to local news station WRAL.
The North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education estimates that 71,566 students were homeschooled in the state in the 2007-08 academic school year.
To express concern, contact:
Judicial Standards Commission: (you may reference case #08CVD17753)
P.O. Box 1122
Raleigh, North Carolina 27602
NC Senate–Neal Hunt (R)
NC House–Ty Harrell (D)
Governor Bev Perdue:
Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699