Courtroom “rule” about no children will be challenged


I’m frustrated this evening. Even my friends – mostly people very concerned about the state of our country, the erosion of our values, ignorance of the Constitution, etc. – seem oblivious to why I’m so upset that Hannah wasn’t allowed into the courtroom last week. They did not even want her in the BUILDING. She was granted access to the clerks’ area, but it was made abundantly clear that the judges have said NO MINORS (anyone under age 18) will be allowed in THEIR courtrooms.

 

Here’s the problem with that. They may be the judge of a particular courtroom, but the courtroom is OPEN TO SPECTATORS. It’s not their right to pick and choose which spectators – white, black, young, old, a homeschooled student or a down-on-her-luck cashier. It is open to all spectators.

 

We have had issues, small and not-so-small, in Washington County, for years with officials who decide to take the law into their own hands. In one situation, back in 2010, then Mayor George Jaynes decided the local library couldn’t hold an already-scheduled book signing about homeschooling because he completely disagrees with home education (a parental right that has been upheld by the Supreme Court in every state). I was involved with the book signing because I wrote the book in question (Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, Bethany House Publishers). The librarians were devastated that the mayor basically threatened their jobs if they went through with it, but when the media became involved, he then recanted and said the librarians lied.

 

Now officials in Washington County want to allow anyone – any spectator – to enter a public building, go into our local courtroom and learn about our judicial system, but my 12, 14 and 16-year-old children cannot?!? Even the clerks said I should just go to another courthouse because they’re “all open to the public,” but “our [Washington County] judges have decided they don’t want minors in the courtroom.” This isn’t for them to decide!!! It’s a public courtroom. If someone is causing a disturbance, ask them to leave, but you can’t preemptively exclude certain people from something. That’s discrimination.

 

Is anyone interested to know that the name of the Washington County Courthouse? It’s the George Jaynes Justice Center. Yes, that’s the same mayor who said he despised homeschoolers and would never allow homeschoolers to use ANY PUBLIC BUILDING FOR ANY ACTIVITY THAT WOULD BENEFIT HOMESCHOOLERS. Even if you aren’t a homeschooler, this should disturb you!

 

I can’t believe people aren’t infuriated by this. As I’ve said before, even if it’s a mother with no childcare, it’s not legal to exclude someone from the courtroom (without cause), but I’m escorting well-behaved students to learn about our judicial system and as shown once again, I believe there is a clear pattern by these people that they are specifically trying to exclude this group of people (homeschoolers) from access to our courtrooms. (They do classroom tours for public school children and said they would “consider” scheduling one for my children. That is not good enough. It’s a public building and they have a right to be there.) I can’t help but think that people would be incredibly upset about this if they were part of any one of numerous other minority groups, but homeschoolers don’t matter? Kids don’t matter?

 

We will be going to the courthouse next week. If we don’t stand up for our rights, obviously no one else is going to. There have been many others in our country’s history who have had to take action because no one else would. While this is simply a “local issue” and you may think it doesn’t apply to you, how would you feel if you were the one denied access in the future?

 

In case anyone is worried that I’m breaking the law here. Please read the following rules which dictate admission to the Washington County Courts:

 

STATE OF TENNESSEE

FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT

LOCAL RULES

 

Circuit, Chancery and Criminal Courts

 

1.03. CONDUCT, REPRESENTATION AND ADMISSION.

  1. Space Within the Bar. The space within the bar of the courtroom is reserved for parties engaged in the case on trial, attorneys and court officials. Spectators and prospective jurors and witnesses shall be seated outside the bar in the general seating area. The presence of infants in the courtroom is discouraged.
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