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The Long History of Parents’ Rights

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By: Joseph Griffith

In a Virginia gubernatorial debate on September 28th, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe declared that parents should not “be telling schools what they should teach.” “Listen,” he continued, “we have a Board of Ed working with the local school boards to determine the curriculum for our schools. You don’t want parents coming in every different school jurisdiction saying, ‘This is what should be taught here’ and, ‘This is what should be taught here.’”

In a letter sent to the Biden Administration the next day, the National School Boards Association likened parents’ protests about COVID-19 policies and critical race theory to “domestic terrorism.” In response, the Attorney General directed the FBI to work with local law enforcement to address this “criminal conduct.” In a similar vein, the Connecticut Senate Democrats recently tweeted a cartoon depicting concerned parents going to a school board meeting as famous villains from horror movies.

Two authors in the Washington Post accused these parents of asserting a radical and novel form of parental rights that deviates from “common law and case law in the United States.”

What rights do parents have in directing their children’s education?

Parental Rights at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States first upheld this right of parents in a series of landmark cases in the mid-1920s. In Meyer v. Nebraska (1925) the Court struck down a state law prohibiting instruction in German to students before the ninth grade; in the lesser-known decision of Farrington v. Tokushige (1927), the Court overturned a similar law in Hawaii that forbade instruction in Japanese. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), the Court struck down an Oregon law that effectively outlawed private schools.

The primary motivation behind these laws was the nativist impulse to assimilate the children of immigrants, to “standardize” children, into white, Protestant, American culture. In Oregon, for example, the Ku Klux Klan was among the most powerful and vocal supporters of the law forbidding private (read: Catholic) education. In a pamphlet widely distributed in Oregon, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan wrote of Catholic parents and their school-aged children: “somehow, these mongrel hordes must be Americanized; failing that, deportation is the only remedy.” “Democratic education,” he wrote, is the “one unfailing defense against every kind of alienism in America.”

In overturning these laws, the Supreme Court established what William Galston has described as “a rebuttable presumption” in favor of parental liberty: parents have the right to direct their children’s education for the simple reason that parents typically know the unique needs and capacities of their children and desire what is best for them. As the Court wrote in Pierce, “those who nurture [a child] and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” At their best, parents “recognize” what “additional obligations” their children are capable of and called to and then “direct” them to these ends.

In these same decisions, the Supreme Court also upheld the general authority of the state to compel school attendance and require schools to teach, in the language of Pierce, “certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship.”

The Supreme Court was able to balance the specific rights of parents to direct their children’s education and the general authority of the state to form educated citizens by drawing from seven decades of state supreme court decisions on the issue. Indeed, the Meyer Court alludes to this rich history when it identifies the right of parents to direct their children’s education as one of “those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

The Supreme Court of Nebraska’s 1914 decision of State ex rel Kelley v. Ferguson beautifully summarizes this: on one hand, since the public school is “one of the main bulwarks of our nation,” the court pledged to “not knowingly do anything to undermine it.” On the other hand, it promised not to permit “our love for this noble institution” to destroy “the God-given and constitutional right of a parent to have some voice in the bringing up and education of his children.”

If the recent denigration of parents is a harbinger of things to come, then liberty-loving people need to make the case, once again, for the right of parents to direct their children’s education, including in public schools.

A Rising Tide of Homeschooling

The dramatic increase in the number of homeschooled students since the beginning of the COVID pandemic and the recent fervor over public-school curriculum corroborate the longstanding, common-sense presumption of American courts: parents do indeed care for their kids and, being present in their lives, have some inclination as to what is best for them.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the number of homeschooled children more than tripled in a year, since the start of the pandemic: 3.3% of children in the United States were educated at home in 2016. That number grew to 5.4% in spring 2020, 11.1% by October 2020, and 19.5% by May 2021. The population of Black students educated at home rose from 3% in May 2020 to 16% in October 2020. These latest numbers reflect students not in private or public school (and not students accessing public-school instruction online at home).

Why do parents choose to educate their children at home? Before the pandemic, in 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics (a federal agency) reported that 80% were concerned with the environment at school, “such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure”; 67% wanted to provide moral instruction; 61% were dissatisfied with the academic instruction at school; 51% want to provide religious instruction.

As of yet, the NCES has yet to report data since the start of the pandemic, but one can imagine a similarly diverse set of motivations: are not some parents, perhaps of immuno-compromised children, worried about the spread of COVID-19 in schools, just as other parents are concerned about the effects masking might have on their kids’ ability to socialize and make friends? Are not some parents worried about teaching that a child’s white skin makes her an oppressor, just as others are concerned that the mistreatment of Black people in America might be glossed over in history class? Are not many parents concerned about the consistency of their kids’ education as schools unpredictably vacillate between in-person and online learning in response to infection rates?

Parents of many religious, economic, and political backgrounds care about their kids.

Parental Rights in Public Schools

But what role should parents have in directing their children’s education inside public schools?

David French argues that parents should “send their kids to schools where they will thrive” rather than attempt to “dictate public school curriculum.” The substantial increase in at-home education suggests the prudence of this approach. This solution, however, leaves many parents without viable options for the foreseeable future; in addition, encouraging parents to withdraw their kids from public schools when they disagree with the curriculum might further polarize American life. At their best, public schools teach our increasingly diverse citizenry about our common history and shared commitment to equal liberty under the law.

But while the First Circuit Court ruled in 1995 that no parent has the right to dictate public school curriculum, there is a rich history of case law in the United States that upholds the right of parents to exempt their own children from certain activities in public school.

For example, in the early 1870s, parents in Wisconsin wanted their son excused from his geography class so that he could have more time to learn the skills necessary to keep the accounts of the family business. When the boy did not turn in his geography homework, his teacher beat him, and his parents sued. In court, the defense argued that “by the very act of sending his child to school,” the parent implicitly agrees to submit to “the judgment of the teacher.” When the case finally reached the Supreme Court of Wisconsin in 1874, the court disagreed, explaining that parents have the “paramount right to make a reasonable selection from the prescribed studies for [their children] to pursue” because parents likely “know the health, temperament, aptitude, and deficiencies” of their own children. “The parent,” the court wrote, “is quite as likely to make as wise and judicious selection [of his children’s curriculum] as the teacher.”

In California in 1920, parents objected to their children’s participation in the public school’s mandatory dance classes because it violated their religious beliefs. The parents proposed alternative ways to satisfy the state’s physical-exercise requirements, which the principal refused to consider. The children were expelled from the school for their absence from the class, and their parents sued. In the 1921 decision of Hardwick v. Board of School Trustees of Fruitridge School District, the Supreme Court of California ruled in favor of the parents: as long as the parents’ requests “relate to matters in rearing and education of their children,” are “not offensive to the moral well-being of the children,” and are not “inconsistent with the best interests of society,” the public school must accommodate. To rule otherwise, the Supreme Court of California asserted, would be to subvert “the home life so essential to the safety and security of society and the government which regulates it—the very opposite effect of what the public school system is designed to accomplish.”

Mere Creatures of the State?

Common law and case law in the United States” uphold both the general authority of state governments to educate future citizens and the specific right of parents to direct their own children’s education. According to these state supreme-court decisions, state governments may, for example, enact compulsory school-attendance laws and minimum standards for homeschooling, but parents have wide discretion in determining where, when, how, and why their children will be educated. The reason is that, although there are exceptions to the rule, parents typically know and love their children—not “children” in the abstract or even individual students in a classroom. Their kids.

Long ago, the Supreme Court in Meyer rejected the austere educational measures of the Spartan regime that submerged the individual into the city. “The child is not the mere creature of the State,” the Supreme Court added in Pierce, two years later. In America, where homeschooling is legal in all fifty states and where countless parents have had their children exempted from particular activities in public schools, we’re far from these realities—and this thanks in large part to the legal protections secured almost one hundred years ago by the Supreme Court. But if the recent denigration of parents is a harbinger of things to come, then liberty-loving people need to make the case, once again, for the right of parents to direct their children’s education, including in public schools.

••••

This article (The Long History of Parents’ Rights) was originally created and published by LAW & LIBERTY and is republished here under “Fair Use” (see disclaimer below) with attribution to author Joseph Griffith and lawliberty.org.

About the Author: Joseph Griffith is an assistant professor of politics at The King’s College in New York City. More by this author

TLB Recommends you visit LAW & LIBERTY for more great articles and information.

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Suppliers Of Food Items To Boko Haram In Borno Nabbed

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The North East Chairman and Commander of Hunters/Vigilantes (Sarkin Baka) in Hawul Local Government Area of Borno State, Shawulu Yohanna, has arrested some people supplying food to Boko Haram and recovered N6.050million in their possession.

The development followed calls by concerned residents in Hawul and other communities of Garkida town of Adamawa State including Ishaku Yakubu, Mohammed Madu, Isa Mwajim and Peter John demanding Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Mohammed Ali Ndume, and Chief of Army Staff, General Farouk Yahaya, to deploy troops of ‘Operation Hadin Kai’ to the axis to protect lives and property of people as ahead of yuletide. 

The community has come under series of attacks by terrorists and have since been without military formations since the beginning of the Boko Haram crisis.

The arrest of the Boko Haram food suppliers and recovery of over N6million was coordinated by Yohanna at the fringes of Sangere community bordering Tashan Alade, Sabon Gari and some parts of Askira Uba council area where Brigadier General Dzarma Zurkusu and four other soldiers were ambushed and killed by terrorists during operations in the theatre last month.

“The North East Chairman of Hunters, Alhaji Yohanna, and his team did a wonderful job this week. They acted on intelligence information that was given to them by some farmers.

“The farmers volunteered and hinted Yohanna that they usually sighted a truck conveying food items into the fringes of Sangare Village. If you are in Sangare, there are roads that will link you to some parts of Sabon Gari in Damboa Local Government, the other road will take you to Askira-Uba axis or Garkida and even to Hawul Local Government Area.

“Upon receiving the information, Yohanna mobilised his team and stormed the spot in the evening. Luckily, the team sighted the vehicle after its owner was about to hand over the food items to the terrorists, they (hunters) engaged them with fire and captured the driver and some other two occupants, while the terrorists fled having known the terrain better than their suppliers.

“After arrest, Yohanna interrogated the driver and the two occupants and they admitted that they have been supplying Boko Haram with food items for quite some time from Taraba State. They also told the hunters that they do supply even the commander of kidnappers in Taraba with food items.

“As it is, Yohanna and his team have already handed over the suspects to the Commanding Officer of the 231 Battalion, Biu in Borno State for further action,” a source disclosed.

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EPL Round-Up: Manchester City go top with away win over Watford

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Manchester City have taken over leadership of the Premier League following their 3-1 win over Watford at the Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The routine victory by the visitors has seen them increase their points tally to 35 after 15 games.

An early strike from Raheem Sterling in the fourth minute served a glimpse of what to expect from Pep Guardiola’s men who knew the assignment at hand and delivered almost perfectly.

Sterling’s early goal was followed by a brace from Bernado Silva as City were already cruising to another emphatic win.

Though Cucho Hernandez pulled a goal back for the Hornets, it wasn’t enough to deny the Cityzens their 11th win in 15 league games this season.

For Emmanuel Dennis and his Watford teammates, Saturday’s defeat made it a dozen of losses in the league this season and a wake up to improve or risk going down back to the Championship.

Earlier, on a day neither Sadio Mane nor Mohamed Salah was on hand to deliver the goals for Liverpool as Divock Origi stepped up from the bench to score in the 94th minute to hand the Reds a crucial win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Origi scored in stoppage time to hand Liverpool a 1-0 win and more importantly vital three points that have seen them overtake Chelsea and just one point behind new leaders, Guardiola’s City.

Having seen Chelsea crumble to a 3-2 defeat against West Ham in the London Derby, the Reds knew what was expected of them at the Molineux Stadium.

Liverpool had blown away the majority of their rivals this season, having scored four in each of their last three Premier League games before arriving at Molineux.

They had, simply, been too good but found Wolves at their resolute best until the death.

Also on Saturday, Newcastle finally recorded their first victory of the season as a solitary goal by Callum Wilson gave them a 1-0 win over Burnley at St. James Park.

Elsewhere, the tie between Southampton and Brighton at St Mary’s ended in a stalemate with both sides settling for a 1-1 draw.

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Ellie Aitken's shares messages of her row with Hollie Nasser over ex- husband Charlie on Instagram

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A bitter catfight between two former best friends caught in a high society love triangle has exploded into the public arena after one of the women leaked their private text messages.  

Ellie Aitken, 42, has broken her silence over her estranged investment banker husband Charlie’s new relationship with her ex-pal Hollie Nasser, 36, by sharing a fiery text exchange about the split.

In an Instagram post, Ms Aitken shared a text message she had received from Ms Nasser accusing her of ‘playing the victim’ and blaming her for ‘ruining her marriage’.   

‘Ellie there’s no point in us talking anymore,’ Ms Nasser’s message begins.

‘I can’t believe after … you are out there playing the victim and saying I ruined your perfect marriage.’

Ellie Aitken has shared photos of her bitter exchange with Hollie Nasser (pictured) as their friendship continues to deteriorate

Ms Aitken uploaded a heated conversation she had with her former best friend on Instagram on Sunday

Ms Aitken uploaded a heated conversation she had with her former best friend on Instagram on Sunday

Ms Nasser also claimed Ms Aitken had tactfully posted photos online of her smiling alongside her husband of more than 20 years at their son’s rugby team award night on Friday to gain media attention. 

Just hours after pictures confirmed Mr Aitken had set up home with his new love, Ms Aitken tried to maintain a united front by sharing photos of the family at the function in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Instagram. 

‘Of course putting photos of [your son] on public Instagram was going in the paper, you knew that when you posted it,’ Ms Nasser said in the text.

Ms Nasser denied that Mr Aitken had spent the weekend at her house, claiming photographs that placed him there on Friday only showed him dropping her off. 

‘Charlie was not at my house last night and I’ve got mum staying here,’ she continued.

‘I’ve had photographers here since Friday and still here now surrounding my house I’m not that dumb. He dropped me outside my house on Friday and that’s it. I know he is staying at the Meriton.’

But Ms Aitken refused to believe the claims, saying her husband had admitted he was there. 

‘Darling I was watching him there with the white plantation shutters behind which we photographed on FaceTime and he told me he was there having pizza,’ Ms Aitken’s reply text reads.  

Ms Aitken added superimposed text at the bottom of the Instagram story, reading: ‘Stop lying and bullying me @hollie.nasser. Enough.’

The screen grab of the heated message exchange was deleted a short time later. 

The raging war of words – which is the first public glimpse inside the drama wreaking havoc behind closed doors – exposes how weeks of turmoil and heartbreak have reached boiling point. 

Ellie Aitken, 42, smiled for the camera alongside her estranged husband Charlie and their son (pictured) at an event on Friday

Ellie Aitken, 42, smiled for the camera alongside her estranged husband Charlie and their son (pictured) at an event on Friday

Ms Nasser has remained at the marital home in Sydney's eastern suburbs where her relationship with Mr Aitken was first revealed

Ms Nasser has remained at the marital home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where her relationship with Mr Aitken was first revealed 

Mr Aitken and his wife Ellie had been long-time friends of the Nasser's, and Mr Nasser was a director of the Aitken's wealth management company

Mr Aitken and his wife Ellie had been long-time friends of the Nasser’s, and Mr Nasser was a director of the Aitken’s wealth management company

Mr Aitken and Ms Nasser were seen in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Friday, running errands and taking items into the luxury house Ms Nasser previously shared with her husband Christopher-John ‘CJ’ Nasser. 

It was the first time the new lovers have been seen together since their two marriages ended early last month.    

Mr Aitken and his wife Ellie had been long-time friends of the Nasser’s. Mr Nasser was a director of the Aitken’s wealth management company.

Sources close to the two couples said a baby monitor was central to the breakdown of the Nasser’s marriage. 

Last week, Mr Aitken confirmed his marriage to Ellie had ended and he was now in a relationship with Ms Nasser.  

‘I can confirm I am separated from Ellie Aitken and am in a relationship with Hollie Nasser. My sole focus is my children and I’ll make no further comment,’ he said.

Both Mr Nasser and Ms Aitken were ‘totally blindsided’ by the union, friends say. 

For years, the two couples were inseparable – taking international trips together and raising their young families as business partners and best friends. 

Dressed casually in shorts and a t-shirt, Mr Aitken waited in a black Audi SUV while Ms Nasser ran items into the terrace house on Friday afternoon. 

Ms Nasser emerged from the house again hours later wrapped up in a light knitted sweater.

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Dressed casually in a black t-shirt and khaki shorts, Mr Aitken smiled as he stepped out of the black Audi SUV with Ms Nasser in tow

Ms Nasser shared a series of pictures outside the home in 2018 when they bought the home for $2.2 million

Ms Nasser shared a series of pictures outside the home in 2018 when they bought the home for $2.2 million

The two couples used to travel together and raised their young families as business partners and friends. Pictured dining at Eleven Madison Park in New York before the Covid pandemic

The two couples used to travel together and raised their young families as business partners and friends. Pictured dining at Eleven Madison Park in New York before the Covid pandemic

In 2018, Ms Nasser shared a series of pictures with her family posing next to a ‘sold’ sign at that same house when she and Mr Nasser bought the property for $2.2 million. 

‘Home’, she captioned the smiling snaps.    

Mr Nasser is being supported by the couple’s close friends, many of whom are said to be ‘horrified with the nature of what’s gone on’.

‘We’ve all distanced ourselves as much as we can,’ one friend of Mr Nasser’s told Daily Mail Australia. 

He was equally shocked when he was issued an apprehended domestic violence order last month by his estranged wife.

The father-of-two intends to fight the accusations with the case to go before court on December 15.  

‘I categorically deny the allegations. They are totally baseless.

‘It is disappointing that others are choosing to make a horrible situation for me and my children even worse.’  

Hollie and Ellie were best friends and Ellie was said to be 'blindsided' by the relationship

Hollie and Ellie were best friends and Ellie was said to be ‘blindsided’ by the relationship

Ellie Aitken, 42, and Charlie Aitken, 48, (pictured together) announced their split in November

Ellie Aitken, 42, and Charlie Aitken, 48, (pictured together) announced their split in November

Just five years ago, Mr and Ms Nasser were happily married in a lavish ceremony at St Mary’s Cathedral, the new bride happily announcing they’d spend the rest of their lives together.

She constantly described Mr Nasser as ‘the best husband and father’ she and her children could have ever hoped for – sharing photos of extravagant holidays, helicopter trips and days at sea on boats.   

‘The most amazing husband and dad,’ she wrote alongside a photo of Mr Nasser and his daughter. ‘You are our everything. We love you so much.’ 

Ms Nasser was simultaneously telling her best friend she had a ‘perfect family’ and that she and Mr Aitken were ‘the best couple’.

On one occasion, she described Ms Aitken as ‘the most beautiful soul’.

Just a few weeks before splitting with her husband, Ms Aitken posted a gushing birthday message telling Ms Nasser she was ‘so lucky to have you in my life’.

Together the best friends were feted as leading lights of Sydney’s social circuit, regularly photographed at functions and charity events. 

Mr Nasser was an investor and director of the Aitkens’ wealth management company, until he resigned in early November. 

The relationship has left many shocked as both couples had been friends for years (pictured, Ellie Aitken, in red, alongside former Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop, centre, with Hollie Nasser, in blue, at Ms Aitken's 40th birthday party in 2019)

The relationship has left many shocked as both couples had been friends for years (pictured, Ellie Aitken, in red, alongside former Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop, centre, with Hollie Nasser, in blue, at Ms Aitken’s 40th birthday party in 2019)

Ms Nasser shared an insight into her relationship over the years with pictures of international holidays and helicopter trips

Ms Nasser shared an insight into her relationship over the years with pictures of international holidays and helicopter trips

She constantly described Mr Nasser as 'the best husband and father' she and her children could have ever hoped for - sharing photos of extravagant holidays, helicopter trips and days at sea on boats

She constantly described Mr Nasser as ‘the best husband and father’ she and her children could have ever hoped for – sharing photos of extravagant holidays, helicopter trips and days at sea on boats

Ms Aitken is a former corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Clayton Utz and one time director of the NSW Polo Association.

She also served as an executive director of the investment business she shared with her husband, Aitken Investment Management. She has since resigned but maintains her role as director.

Until 2016, they lived in a spectacular $11 million mansion in Darling Point before moving to a rental property. 

It’s understood Mr Aitken moved out of the family home and is living in a serviced apartment in Bondi Junction.

He’s been hunkering down in the apartment with Ms Nasser, who splits her time between Bondi Junction and her home in Paddington. 

Just five years ago, Mr and Ms Nasser were happily married in a lavish ceremony at St Mary's Cathedral, the new bride happily announcing they'd spend the rest of their lives together

Just five years ago, Mr and Ms Nasser were happily married in a lavish ceremony at St Mary’s Cathedral, the new bride happily announcing they’d spend the rest of their lives together

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Ellie Aitken (pictured left) shared a post to Instagram where she gushed about her close friend Hollie Nasser (pictured right)

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