HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Seven homeschoolers in Arkansas who were seized by the Garland County Sheriff’s Department last month will remain in state custody for at least another month after a hearing over the matter was pushed back until March.
As previously reported, the children of Hal Stanley and his wife Michelle were removed from their Hot Springs home on Jan. 12 following an anonymous complaint.
The situation began in December as a social worker with the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) showed up at the Stanley’s door after receiving a complaint that the children were permitted to go outside in the snow barefoot. The Stanleys assured the case worker that everything was fine, and that the children had plenty of shoes, but had a custom of making footprints in the snow for fun.
“We showed her some of the 200 and something pair of shoes and told her—actually the kids told her—how it was their preference to go barefoot and that it was like a tradition to briefly run out in the snow barefoot and take a picture of the footprints,” Michelle Stanley told reporters.
However, authorities then received a second complaint claiming that the couple had a “poisonous substance” in their home, and so on Jan. 12, both DHS and members of the Garland County Sheriff’s Department appeared at their door. According to the family, officials forced the parents to step outside, at which time they were served with a search warrant.
“[They] said we could not enter our house or talk to our kids until the search and the investigation was through,” Stanley said. “They said the charge was that we had a poisonous substance in our house and that the kids were being exposed to it and it endangered their welfare.”
It turned out that the substance that was being referred to was MMS (“miracle mineral supplement”) or sodium chlorite, which is used to purify water and is claimed to help to cure diseases. The Stanleys state that the product was used to balance the PH of their fish tank, but that her husband had also been drinking it to help make his system more alkaline.
Five hours later, after the search concluded—along with an interrogation of the children, officials informed the Stanleys that all seven of their children were being taken into custody.
“Six intimidating, brute looking males and one DHS female all lined up in our den to tell us they would be taking our kids into their custody for 72 hours,” Stanley recalled.
But after a week later, the couple’s children still were not returned, and last week, the Stanley’s learned that a hearing scheduled over the matter has been postponed until March 23. Therefore, the children will remain in custody for at least another month until the hearing is held.
“They didn’t tell us why,” Stanley explained in an updated posted on Facebook. “We had been given the impression that all our children were going to be allowed to come back home with us, but now we have to wait. Just pray it isn’t that they are going on a ‘fishing expedition.'”
While the family is allowed visitation once a week, Mr. Stanley says that he is concerned that his children are being indoctrinated with secularism since the government has put them in public school in the meantime.
“Now they are being taught the world standards. We have homeschooled them. Now, they are being forced into public school. My children are not properly dressed. They are not properly prepared,” he told the Christian Post. “My children are being abused as we speak by the public school system. Everything we have built for 22 years has been taken away.”
He told the outlet that perhaps two of his older children, who now attend college, may be partially responsible for the situation as they have spoken before about their desire to attend public school.
“We have a couple of our teenagers who decided they wanted to go to public school,” Stanley contends. “I think they are behind some of this, but we are trying to get to the bottom of it ourselves.”
Arkansas DHS hasn’t yet provided an exact reason as to why the children were seized.
“It could mean that the home is unfit. It could mean that the environment is not a good environment, that there’s dirt everywhere; it could mean that,” Public Information Coordinator Kate Luck told KATV. “It could also mean the children cannot safely remain there. It may be that the parents have done something to make the environment unsafe. It could mean that the children did something…”