PLANO, Texas – A husband and wife in Texas are being sued by their neighbors for allowing their homeschooled children to play in their backyard.
Andrew and Kelly Counts moved into their Plano, Texas, home in September of 2014. They reportedly chose the house in part because it had a concrete patio in the backyard—a perfect spot for their kids’ outdoor playhouse and swing set.
“One of the big reasons we chose the house was because we would be able to move this playhouse,” Kelly Counts told reporters.
“We love this house, and we love this neighborhood,” she added.
The Counts’ four children, who are 10, 7, 4, and 2 years old, enjoy spending time in their playhouse and swing set. Because the kids are homeschooled, they sometimes play outside during the day, when other kids are at school.
But two of the Counts’ next-door neighbors, Irving and Anita Ward, are now suing the homeschooling family, saying the kids are a nuisance and make too much noise. First, the neighbors asked the local homeowners association and the City of Plano to force the Counts to remove the playhouse and swing set. When that initiative failed, they took the issue to court.
“It’s unfathomable to me,” Counts said, according to the local CBS affiliate. “I can’t imagine the sound of kids playing at any age or stage of my life and thinking that I needed to sue someone over it.”
The Wards allege that the homeschooled children are upsetting their “tranquil quality of life” and should not be allowed to play in their backyard. According to a report from “Inquisitr,” their lawsuit blamed the Counts for allowing their children to play outside when “most children are in regular schools.”
In retaliation to the homeschoolers’ time outdoors, the upset neighbors blared loud rap music with obscene, vulgar lyrics from their property to prevent the Counts’ kids from playing outside last summer.
“For a while, I’d bring the kids inside and it would stop, and when we went out it would start again,” Counts told “Dallasnews.com.” “I knocked on the door and said, ‘Mrs. Ward, my kids are trying to play in the side yard and there’s some music playing with very vulgar language.’”
But the Wards refused to speak about the issue, so the Counts responded with a lawsuit of their own last month. The Counts say their neighbors’ loud, explicit music makes them feel uncomfortable in their own backyard.
Rebecca French, a homeschool mom who blogs on “Patheos.com,” encouraged homeschoolers to pay close attention to this Texas case, saying it has the potential to affect homeschoolers’ rights.
“Do our children have the right to play outside during school hours?” French asked in a recent blog post. “Do our neighbors have a reasonable expectation to not have to hear the sounds of children at play during the time when ‘most children are in regular schools’?”
“Imagine the precedent that a victory in this case could set for overbearing neighbors everywhere,” she continued. “If the Wards prevail, will the courts have handed those who are against home-based education an effective new way to attack our families and our way of life? … Have we really reached the point as a society where the natural sounds of playing children is a recognized legally actionable nuisance? What does that say about our future?”