Parental Authority even in the Courtroom

Over the past week, I’ve heard from people who may understand my point about having access to the courtroom for my teenagers, but many of them add a disclaimer such as “unless the content gets too violent for them” or “except when the testimony is talking about things like murder” or perhaps “they could go to something like property court, but not something about a drug bust…”

On the one hand, I agree with the sentiment. We don’t want children exposed to unnecessary violence. On the other hand, many parents chose to avoid an argument, ignore their child’s questionable activities or perhaps even think it’s ok for them to do things some of us might disagree with. What if I personally didn’t agree with another parent’s decision to:

–  allow rated R (or PG-13) movies (which usually contain tons of violence, sex, cursing, etc.)

–  give a child a cell phone at age 12 or 13 (which can be used for sexting, contact with predators, unauthorized internet access)

–  allow a minor child internet access (do I need to even explain)

–  let a child watch shows like Special Victims Unit or Dexter (which includes violence like rape and murder)

–  leave an 11-year-old at home alone

–  give 16-year-olds keys to a vehicle (many have no business driving)

–  spank a child

–  get vaccinations / deny vaccinations

–  go to a mall alone

 

Across our country, there have been judges who disagree with the very idea of homeschooling who have ordered that children be put in public school for “socialization” – not because the child was having issues, but simply because the judge disagreed with homeschooling. What if I were a judge and decided mothers needed to be home caring for their children instead of sending them to daycare or public school? (I bet that wouldn’t go over so well, but judges are entitled to enforce their opinions in court, right?)

My children are mature. My oldest two children are almost 20 and 18. My oldest daughter is a junior in college and my son is leaving to serve in the Army in January. I am incredibly proud of them both. My husband and I made the decision to homeschool when it was time to enter my oldest in kindergarten and I was told by the school system that she would have to sit and review her letters for the next year even though she already knew how to read fluently. We plunged in and we’ve never looked back. I continue to teach our 12, 14 and 16-year-old children at home and in the community.

Learning is a privilege and homeschooling has been a delightful journey, but we’ve always placed our children’s safety and well-being above all else. We introduce concepts that are age-appropriate, limit their exposure to violence (especially early on) and encourage them to pursue their own interests and God-given talents. I do not take our decision to visit the courtroom lightly, but since we are responsible parents who care about our children, we are the best ones to make decisions about when to introduce certain concepts and how to do that. You wouldn’t appreciate me telling you that you’re literally not allowed to let your child watch a particular movie any more than I appreciate being told we cannot enter a public courtroom.

As a side note, for the most part, we’ve had overwhelming support and encouragement. Most people completely agree with our point of view and understand the issue at hand. Our local officials are trying to take parental authority into their own hands and in this case, the law has already stated that courtrooms are open to the public – all public (including minors). We’re not arguing about something that we want to “change.” We’re simply insisting that the law be followed.

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Unable to get Monday’s Court Docket

Although this case is from Georgia, it is yet another ruling emphasizing that courts are to remain “unfettered and unobstructed” for public access, INCLUDING CHILDREN. This case specifically addresses the issue we’re having here in Washington County.   https://www.schr.org/resources/jqc_to_judges_keep_courts_open_to_public_no_excuses

Today my husband called and asked how he could obtain the docket for Monday. He was told this wasn’t something they normally published. (Most courthouses publish this on the Internet and all are supposed to make it available to the public because dockets are considered public record.) She said it wasn’t ready yet anyway, but after she asked his name, she said she’d have to ask her supervisor permission to see if she was allowed to give this to him. 

We will be visiting the courthouse Monday, with our without the docket.

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.

The courtroom – why it matters

I’ve had a few people ask why this courthouse issue is such a big deal to me. I want to share a few reasons. Many of you may remember some of these issues, but this will be news to others.

Several years ago, when my book, Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, was released, the local library scheduled a book signing. All was well and the event was being publicized and anticipated when I was contacted by the librarian to tell me that it had been canceled. The mayor had decided that he did not want a book signing about homeschooling at the public library because he asserted that we take money away from public schools (which is not true). When the media became involved, he blatantly lied and said that it was all a “misunderstanding,” but that he didn’t think we should be promoting something like homeschooling at a public library. I had to fight for the right to have the book signing and it took getting the media involved before the mayor backed off and allowed the librarians to go on with the book signing as planned. That is discrimination and it’s ridiculous. His personal opinions shouldn’t determine what topics are allowed to be discussed at a public building.

We’ve had other issues with officials in Washington County, including a policeman telling me my children couldn’t ride their bicycles outside in our cul-de-sac during school hours because they were “supposed to be in school.” I explained that we homeschooled and he said then they should be inside doing school, not outside riding their bikes. Sigh. I ended up having to talk with an attorney and the guy’s supervisor to get him off our backs.

There have been numerous other instances of prejudice in this county. It is so frustrating and while this latest situation with the courthouse isn’t specifically directed toward homeschoolers, the final effect mostly is. After all, what other group of people would be likely to bring school-age children to the courthouse during school hours other than homeschoolers?

During the whole situation with the book signing, some people would say they agreed with the mayor and ask why it mattered so much. I’ll say the same thing now that I said then. You might agree with the mayor on this issue, but what if someone else in authority decides they don’t like black people or single women or people with beards? What if they decide Christians should be excluded or perhaps Jews or maybe atheists? Even if you don’t like a particular group, the laws protect us all and if we’re not willing to protect the rights of others, we will all lose our rights.

People today don’t know the difference between a republic and a democracy. They don’t understand that our country wasn’t founded on the principle of “majority rules” (which leads to mob rule) or that when officials make arbitrary decisions that affect certain group of people, this ends up affecting us all because it erodes the freedoms of everyone in this country.

 

Denied Access to the Local County Courtroom

“A trial is a public event.  What transpires in the courtroom is public property.” Quote from the Supreme Court in a famous passage in a 1947 decision (Craig v. Harney).

 

A few days ago about Hannah and I went to the Washington County Courthouse to learn about courtroom proceedings because we have been studying our Constitution, government, responsibilities of citizens, etc.. Here’s something I didn’t say about that incident and also something I’ve been looking into since then…

 

The police officer who did our security check at the door was very nice, but when I asked him about the dockets and which courtroom would be most appropriate for us to visit, another officer stepped over to our area and was pretty much rudely telling us that Hannah could NOT go into the courtroom because she was under 18. I told him that I was certain anyone was allowed in a courtroom because it was open to the public, but he insisted that they did not allow anyone under the age of 18 into a courtroom and basically acted like he we shouldn’t even be in the building. When I asked him when that law had been put into effect, he stood up and moved closer to me in an intimidating fashion, repeating that she wasn’t allowed in the courtroom. I backed down and told him we were going over to the clerks’ area and just went that way to ask some questions about jury duty. While I’m not normally one to back down when I think I’m right, I did because (a) I supposed perhaps the law had changed and I didn’t know about it, (b) Hannah was with me and I didn’t want to seem disrespecting to the officer, and (c) I kind of felt bad for the other officer who had been very nice and was looking at this guy like he was being very disrespectful so I just didn’t want to make a scene. 

 

Anyway, the more I thought about that, I thought it would be good to look up this law and show the kids the statute. Long story short, I have searched thoroughly and cannot find anything indicating that it is against the law to have minors in a courtroom. As a matter of fact, the only thing I can find states that “the presence of infants in the courtroom is discouraged.” Discouraged is a long way from illegal and “infants” is a long way from my kids’ ages of 12 or 14 or 15. There is also a rule that minor children are not allowed in the courtroom in contested domestic cases. While I think this probably applies to the children involved in the cases, even if this applies to all children, this still leaves a TON of cases where children could in fact be in the courtroom.

 

Perhaps one of the things God wants us to get out of this particular educational lesson about citizenship and government is that we should make sure we KNOW our laws, we’re AWARE of our rights and we realize that it’s up to us to INSIST on fair treatment under the law. Citizens under 18 have as much right to access to the courtroom to learning about and observe our judicial system as people over 18 (obviously with consideration to subjects that might not be appropriate for a younger child) 

 

If your own personal opinion is that “courtrooms aren’t an appropriate place for children anyway,” please remember this. My children are 12, 14 and 15. At those ages, in the state of Tennessee:

–       The oldest can have a driver’s permit. Both the 14 and 15-year-old could qualify for a hardship license.

–       They can ALL have access (without parental knowledge or consent) to birth control, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and prenatal medical care.

–       The oldest two can legally hold jobs.

–       They can ALL be charged with a crime.

 

There is more, but you get the idea. Kids can hold a job, be arrested, drive and have sex, but they can’t sit in a courtroom???

 

UPDATE:

 

I spoke with clerks in the eastern district and state courts of Tennessee. They said minors are allowed in all courtrooms at that level so then I called our local courts. The lady I spoke with was incredibly nice. She didn’t know the answer to my questions so she found out for me. Here is what she was told:  Basically, our local judges in Washington County decided that THEY didn’t want anyone under the age of 18 in the courtrooms. They do occasionally schedule school visits with the local schools, but they have the officers at the door stop anyone just coming in with a minor child.

 

Here are a couple of the many problems with that. First, they can’t just arbitrarily decided to exclude a particular group of the public from the courtroom (that’s prejudice). Second, pretty much the only group of minors who would be going into a courtroom during daytime hours anyway are homeschool students, which adds another level to the prejudice and it prohibits these students from having access to proceedings that are open to other members of the public.

 

The clerk said the judges are away at a conference this week (???) and she would talk with them next week about trying to set up a “visit” so we could go in the courtroom. That was nice of her and while I appreciate the gesture, there is a greater issue at hand here. If other members of the public have access to the courtroom, so should my teenagers who are simply trying to learn more about our judicial system and how it works.

 

I guess they’re going to learn more about this whole process than we originally anticipated…

Obama suddenly opposes technology???

Obama was fine with technology until everyone started recognizing – and talking about – his deception and manipulation.  And even with the topic of technology, he can’t avoid pulling the “race card,” with words like “empowerment” and “emancipation.”  Regardless of one’s race, those words sound great to a largely uneducated audience (thanks to the government school system), who are looking for someone to bail them out of all their woes.  In other words, they cling to words like “empowerment” and “emancipation” and I believe they would throw their electronic devices off a cliff, and possibly jump themselves, if Obama said to do so.  After all, he is the “savior.”

Our Founding Fathers decided that their leader would be called a “president” and did not allow him to rise to the title of “king” or “dictator” for a reason – to preserve the integrity of our system of checks and balances and to ensure an individual’s right to life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.  They never guaranteed that we would have these things, but if we work hard and keep our leaders in check, then our country provides more opportunity than any other for the tired, the poor, the wretched, the huddled masses YEARNING to breathe free.

It breaks my heart to see the things going on in this country.  I believe Obama will use this new push against technology to suspend the flow of information as we know it, which is a direct violation of the First Amendment.  If this happens, we will no longer have a chance against a tyrannical government.  After all, the First Amendment protects ALL speech for a reason.  Obama can claim that others are spreading lies, but without freedom of speech, we wouldn’t be able to deny that or point out all his discrepancies of speech.  It also seems ironic to me that suddenly Oprah has started an anti-cell phone campaign and Obama seemingly has started an anti-technology campaign.

Obama’s real complaint can be found in his comments to the graduating class, when he stated that the students were “coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter.”  In reality, I think Obama is worried that those of us who are diligent will continue to find errors in his statements and expose his lies, his deception, and his blatant intent to transform our country from the republic it once was to a pure socialist state where justice, money, property, and everything else is “distributed” under the control of a strong central government, thus removing the rights of the individual altogether!

Sonya Haskins, author of Homeschooling for the Rest of Us