Anonymous Reports Pose Serious Risks
Child protective services contacts continue to increase in California. A home-schooling family was reported anonymously to be practicing a cultic religion (they're born-again Christians), including snake worship, snake bites on children, possible sexual molestation, children kept out of school, and possible sexual abuse. In spite of the school issue being negated by appropriate legal counsel, a social worker insisted upon speaking personally with the parents and the children in the home. The family was informed that they had to submit to the interview because an investigation had to be conducted in light of the anonymous report. This was the second report against the family which was unfounded. Naturally, after the interview, the worker determined that there was no merit to the report and deemed it unfounded.
This area of the law puts parents into a real dilemma. Most reports against home-schooling parents are totally bogus and motivated by ill will. Home schools are special targets of suspicion because they don't send their children to a school. If a report of this type were made against a family with children attending public school, the children could simply be interviewed at the school. However, because the children are not in school, officials have to obtain parental permission to interview the children. Thus, these contacts pit the issue of the welfare of children against the rights of parents and citizens generally. The law universally recognizes the parents patriae authority of the state to protect the welfare of children and the right of parents to direct the child-rearing functions of the family, including education.
At the present time, however, the pendulum seems to have swung considerably against parental rights. Claiming to place the safety of children at the highest priority, authorities sometimes use the types of reports indicated above to evade the freedom from unreasonable search and seizures guaranteed by the Constitution. While no one would question the right of authorities to investigate legitimate complaints, many reports are not legitimate. Regarding the issue of discipline, there have also been instances where states have attempted to impose their beliefs about appropriate child-rearing on parents, even when the beliefs are contrary to Biblical standards.
Chief Justice Warren Burger in a Supreme Court case urged states to remember that simply because some parents abuse their children does not mean we throw away the pages of history which clearly demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of parents, motivated by love for their children, do what is in their best interest. Parents' rights are fundamental and, therefore, superior to the state when there is a conflict. Any interference into the domain of the family, including education, must be exercised by the least restrictive means available according to the constitutional mandates which have been interpreted by our courts. Home schoolers need actively to pursue the protection of our Constitution in keeping families free from illegal intrusion by the state. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and prayer!