Homeschooling Mom Under Scrutiny by New Jersey Family Court
JBS | March 15, 2007
From a usually home education friendly state, New Jersey, comes news of the legal criticism of a homeschooling mother's right to educate her children at home. Justice Thomas Zampino of the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court seeks penal charges against Tara Hamilton, college graduate and mother of seven, for homeschooling her children. This follows an apparently bitter divorce and charges by the non-custodial parent Stephen Hamilton that the children were not receiving an adequate education.
The judge has taken it upon himself, contrary to New Jersey state law, to "direct" the local school board to file suit against the mother to obtain access to the Hamilton home under the guise of evaluating and monitoring the instruction of the children. Under New Jersey law credible evidence of abuse, neglect, or inadequate instruction must first exist before this can be done — there is none in this case.
In his ruling, Judge Zampino recommends certain requirements and safeguards that he believes should be in place for homeschoolers. Subsequently Tara Hamilton has been ordered to submit her children to standardized testing and must show the school district that "equivalent academic instruction" is offered by her in her own home. If the school district discovers "failure" in this area, the children will be forced to attend a public or parochial school. This begs the question of just what exactly is meant or implied by "equivalent instruction."
The judge based his determination on his philosophy that unsupervised — no local or state official review of lessons, tests or performance — homeschooling of children by their own parents is "shocking to this court." He opines that children must be protected from harm and sexual predators. (Like these?) He also stated that homeschooling should not be without state monitoring to ensure that all children receive "equivalent education." (That equivalence might not be what he thinks it is.)
Once again this is an example of judicial activism by a judge who disregards both the law and parental primacy in order to force government interference into the lives of law-abiding citizens. This judge wants to determine for parents the way in which they choose to rear and educate their children. Certainly, any judicial action in this case would establish a dangerous precedence and leave the door open for courts or the state to implement their version of "equivalent education" on all homeschoolers.