When I first read the headline and summary of this case, I wondered why a court would prohibit parents from homeschooling their children.
I thought to myself, "This would never fly in California."
Then I downloaded the court decision, and I understood the deeper issues involved in this very sad case. Prepare yourself.
Superficially, the case is about whether a parent has a right to home-school her children.
The deeper facts of the case are very different, however.
State of Nebraska Places Daughters in Custody Due to Physical Abuse
Three years ago, the state of Nebraska asked the juvenile court to place two children - Cassandra and Moira - in temporary custody with the state's Department of Health and Human Services.
Apparently, a county sheriff reported that Cassandra, who was just 13, was forced to sleep in a tent outside of the home even when the temperature was a cool 55 degrees. After she attempted to leave the tent to enter the warmer home, her uncle forced her back into the tent and zip-tied it shut.
The child attempted to escape again, so the mother turned on a water hose, which the uncle used to spray the girl. Then the uncle used rope to tie around the girl's wrists.
Daughter Develops Mental Issues Due to Extreme Abuse
Several months later, it was determined that Cassandra had "severe mental and behavioral health needs" requiring intervention and safety.
The Department of Health and Human Services eventually placed Cassandra with her out-of-state paternal grandparents. However, the younger daughter, Moira, was returned to the mother with an admonishment that the mother could not use any form of physical discipline or restraint against Moira.
The state also required a full psychological evaluation of the mother.
Control and Discipline Issues Continue for Younger Daughter
Just one year later, the Department of Health and Human Services requested a second psychological evaluation of the mother due to concerns expressed by the girl's therapist. In addition, there was evidence that the mother was restraining the daughter as a form of discipline.
Furthermore, the mother was at times violent with the caseworker in charge of the case.
Moira was eventually enrolled in a kindergarten class at a Catholic school and began to improve. But by June 2014, the mother wanted to start homeschooling the child. Her reasoning was that she felt her daughter was falling behind academically.
The Department of Health and Human Services was reluctant to allow this in light of the fact that the mother worked full time and the documented improvement in Moira's behavior.
The caseworker also feared that the mother wanted to control her daughter and limit the adults the daughter could confide in regarding the mother's forms of discipline.
The court denied the mother's request, so she filed an appeal.
Mother Files Appeal to Allow Her to Home-School Daughter
The appellate court stated that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter because a final order was not entered by the juvenile court. It also noted that orders that temporarily suspend a parent's education rights are not appealable.
In addition, the appellate court noted that in juvenile abuse and neglect cases, it is incumbent on the court to arrive at a result that is in the best interest of the child. A child being managed by the Department of Health and Human Services is under that department's control and therefore with the juvenile court has the right to impose conditions, such as allowing a child to continue to attend a regular school.
The appellate court also noted that although the mother retained physical custody of Moira, the child remained in the legal custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.
In fact, the appellate court asserted that both daughters were under the control of Health and Human Services based on a finding that the mother applied inappropriate discipline and placed "both children at risk of harm."
Needless to say, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court, meaning that the mother was not allowed to home-school her daughter.