One of the most time-honored maxims in our law concerning parental liberty – and one that I have cited often to courts across the country when representing parents – is “the child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925).  In Pierce, the Governor of Oregon sought to require all children to attend public schools, effectively putting Catholic and private schools out of business. We are now coming up on the 100-year anniversary of this case, and the battle lines over parental liberty to direct and control the education of their children are as fierce today as ever.

Social Parenting

The American experience in the generations leading up to the Pierce case in 1925 was characterized by a culture that did not question the parent’s fundamental rights in child-rearing.  Then, beginning about in the 1920s, a new ideology began to take shape in America – social parenting.  Today, we see the culmination of this ideology in several signposts among public institutions and popular political expression. Hillary Clinton’s statement that “it takes a village to raise a child” reflects this modern cultural norm, and is another way of saying a child belongs not to one parent or home, and that an entire community of people must nurture and provide input into a child’s upbringing. A community-shared responsibility for child rearing is having a growing impact on our laws governing childcare and education, as many parents have abdicated so much of their parental discretion and responsibility and delegated it to the government.

This shift in governmental interference with parental choice in the direction of their child’s education is nowhere more evident today than in the public outcry over school curricula that promote the attitudes, beliefs and worldview of so-called “critical race theory ideology” in K-12 education. A central tenet of this ideology is that the current social order fosters oppression of African-Americans.  Its proponents argue that “culturally responsive teachers must present through “counter-storytelling” alternative narratives to expose and challenge white privilege because racism is endemic and deeply ingrained in all aspects of American life. 

Tennessee is one of seven states that have banned critical race theory from being taught in classrooms. So, if this form of indoctrination has been officially banned, then the problem is solved, right? Wrong.  Like many such laws, the issue oftentimes turns on how school administrators interpret and apply this prohibition.  Ask most school administrators whether their schools are teaching critical race theory and you will typically get a resounding “no”.  But if you closely examine materials being used in many classrooms across Tennessee, you will discover a number of Trojan Horse curricular programs like “Newsela” that promote “Social-Emotional Learning” (SEL), a euphemism for critical race theory.

Several parent groups across the country have taken their concern directly to their school boards urging them to allow their children to opt out of these courses.  But what is their legal remedy when school boards deny their requests?  The only recourse then is to turn to the courts for

enforcement of these parental protection statutes.  At Crain Law Group, we represent a number of parents who refuse to delegate their parental responsibility to direct and control the education of their child, and who take seriously Proverbs 22:6. If you, or someone you know, would like to learn more about this legal issue, contact us for a free consultation.

Larry L. Crain, Crain Law Group, PLLC –

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