An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney asked a New Hampshire court Monday to reconsider its decision after it ordered a 10-year-old homeschooled girl to attend public school in order to remedy the girl’s lack of exposure to “a variety of points of view” in matters of faith.
Although the marital master making recommendations to the court agreed the child is “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level” and that “it is clear that the home schooling…has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the…public school system,” he nonetheless proposed that the Christian girl be ordered into a government-run school after considering “the impact of [her religious] beliefs on her interaction with others.” The court approved the order.
“Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. In this case specifically, the court is illegitimately altering a method of education that the court itself admits is working,” said ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons of Hampton.
“The court is essentially saying that the evidence shows that, socially and academically, this girl is doing great, but her religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held and must be sifted, tested by, and mixed among other worldviews. This is a step too far for any court to take.”
The parents of the child divorced in 1999. The mother has home-schooled their daughter since first grade with curriculum that meets all state review standards. In addition to home schooling, the girl attends supplemental public school classes and has also been involved in a variety of extra-curricular sports activities.
In the process of renegotiating the terms of a parenting plan for the girl, the guardian ad litem involved in the case concluded, according to the court order, that the girl “appeared to reflect her mother’s rigidity on questions of faith” and that the girl’s interests “would be best served by exposure to a public school setting.”
It was also concluded that “different points of view at a time when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief…in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”
Marital Master Michael Garner reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view,” and then recommended that the girl be ordered to enroll in a government school instead of being home-schooled.
Judge Lucinda V. Sadler approved the recommendation and issued the order on July 14.
“The New Hampshire Supreme Court itself has specifically declared, ‘Home education is an enduring American tradition and right,’” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson. “There is clearly and without question no legitimate legal basis for the court’s decision, and we trust it will reconsider its conclusions.”