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Back to October Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 285 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS OCTOBER 2009

New Hampshire Court Orders Christian Child into Public School
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Ten-year-old Amanda Kurowski has been homeschooled by her mother since 1st grade. Her parents divorced when she was a newborn, and her mother has primary custody. Although others who know Amanda don't seem to share his concerns about her, Amanda's father complains that his ex-wife's homeschooling has not adequately "socialized" their daughter. Mr. Kurowski took his complaints to court, asking the family court system to overrule Amanda's mother's wishes and order Amanda into public school.

Amanda is by all accounts a perfectly well-adjusted, normal young girl. She attends supplemental public school classes and participates in a variety of sports. Even the court order that mandated she must attend public school acknowledged that "the evidence supports a finding that Amanda is generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level."

Why would a judge order a flourishing homeschooled child into public school? Judge Lucinda V. Sadler apparently agreed with the guardian ad litem's negative assessment of Amanda's religion: that Amanda "appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith." The guardian ad litem had opined that Amanda "would be best served by exposure to multiple points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs."

"In a state whose motto is 'Live Free or Die,'" writes William McGurn, "this is an extraordinary line of reasoning. Just how extraordinary might best be appreciated by contemplating the opposite scenario" — what would happen if a judge ordered a child removed from public school and placed in a Christian school in order to gain "exposure" to other "systems of belief"? (Wall Street Journal, 9-7-09)

Marital Master Michael Garner, who heard the case, decided that Amanda'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." The case highlights the extraordinary power that the entire family court system gives to the judge, Marital Master, and guardian ad litem appointed to the child's case. Court documents show that the guardian ad litem told Amanda's mother at one point, "If I want her in public school, she'll be in public school."

Shockingly, the guardian ad litem was right. Amanda started 5th grade at her local public school in Meredith, New Hampshire earlier this fall. The Alliance Defense Fund is helping Amanda's mother to challenge the court order. ADF-allied attorney John Anthony Simmons writes: "The court is essentially saying that the evidence shows that, socially and academically, this girl is doing great, but her religious views 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."


 
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