Originally published May 17 2015
Government invades home school, interrogates family about vaccines and firearms
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) An unwanted visit from a Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) case worker to a Belvidere, New Jersey, family's home has become the basis of a $60 million lawsuit against the state agency.
On January 13, 2015, the Zimmer family answered a knock at the door from Michelle Marchese, a DCP&P case worker who demanded to be let in the home for interrogation purposes regarding the homeschooling of Christopher, Sr., and Nicole Zimmer's son, Christopher, Jr.
Surprised by the aggressive nature of Marchese's demeanor and her demand to be admitted inside the home "Now!," Christopher, Sr., decided to call the police, not being certain what his rights were in such a situation.
Before calling the police, Zimmer asked Marchese about the purpose of her visit. She responded that their 15-year-old son was not receiving a "proper education" and that she was authorized to make sure their homeschooling was being done "correctly."
As Christopher Zimmer Sr. recounts:
My fear was, if I didn't let her in the house, if I had closed the door and didn't let her in the house then the police would be knocking at the door and think I'm hiding something.
Upon arrival, the police allowed Marchese to enter the home without a warrant so that she could inspect and question the family. Once inside, according to the lawsuit filed by the Zimmers, Marchese continued to issue threats and began what the family termed an "intense interrogation."
The questioning soon turned intrusive after beginning benignly enough. Marchese demanded to see textbooks and test scores, even though New Jersey law does not require homeschooling parents to furnish such evidence.
The Zimmers were told by Marchese that their son's education must "follow the public school curriculum" and that the parents were required to work with the public school system.
In fact, New Jersey law mentions no such requirements. From the New Jersey Department of Education website:
The law does not require or authorize the local board of education to review and approve the curriculum or program of a child educated elsewhere than at school. When parent/guardian educate a child elsewhere than at school, they are responsible for the educational outcomes of the child. The local board of education is not required or authorized to monitor the outcomes of the child.
The interrogation became even more intrusive when Marchese began questioning Christopher, Jr. He was asked about guns in the home, vaccinations and whether or not his parents fought or used drugs. Marchese then demanded to see the guns that Zimmer, Sr., legally owns and which are kept in a safe.
She also asked if Christopher, Jr., had ever "appeared suicidal." In the end, the Zimmers were coerced into signing a HIPAA medical release form which would give the agency access to all of the boy's medical records.
After the visit, the Zimmers hired an attorney, revoked the HIPAA release form and filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Trenton charging the agency with "unlawful and unconstitutional home intrusion."
Hopefully, the Zimmers will prevail in court while setting a precedent which may help prevent these types of abuses in the future.
It should be noted that Nicole Zimmer's homeschooled daughter is studying to become a teacher and is currently working as a teacher's aide. She has also made the dean's list at the school she attends.
Throughout the country, parents who decide to educate their children at home have been unfairly targeted by child protective services, leading to an alarming number of cases where innocent families' rights are trampled on. And the situation only seems to be getting worse.
It should be every family's right to decide where and how their children are to be educated, particularly in light of the generally sorry state of public schools across the nation.
Whether or not individual families choose to homeschool their children, we should all stand up for their right to do so.
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