DALLAS – Five months after their children were forcibly removed from their home, a Christian couple continues to fight Texas officials over custody of their homeschooled children.
As previously reported, Trevor and Christina Tutt are a Christian couple in Dallas with several biological and adopted children. Formerly foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tutt say they feel called to adopt and raise children from difficult backgrounds in a healthy Christian home.
However, last September, a local police officer contacted CPS officials after finding that a child temporarily in the Tutts’ care—a four-year-old with autism—had wandered a short distance away from the family’s home. Even though Mr. Tutt was nearby, searching for the child, the police officer’s report led to a CPS investigation.
After investigating the Tutts’ home, a CPS caseworker concluded, “There is no problem here.” Nevertheless, government officials were evidently displeased with the family’s homeschooling, alleging that the children were being “brainwashed” and not “properly educated.” So, on November 21, armed constables seized the Tutts’ seven children—including two biological children—and kept them under government custody.
After lengthy hearings in court, a judge granted Mr. and Mrs. Tutt custody of four of their children on January 7. However, the judge also ruled that the children would be required to attend public schools.
On January 29, Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) organized a press conference at the Dallas County Courthouse to bring publicity to the Tutt family’s situation. During the press conference, several of the Tutts’ family members and friends shared firsthand accounts of the court hearings, saying the forced removal of the children was never justified.
“I attended both hearings,” said Chris Frazier, a friend of the Tutt family. “At the first hearing … no evidence supporting the removal [of the children] was ever discussed, provided, or brought up. Instead, the hearing devolved into a 12-hour attack against the Tutts personally, against their community service, and against the homeschooling of their children.”
On February 28, the Tutts again appeared in court for a “status” hearing. Witnesses say the entire hearing was about the children’s education, as both the judge and the district attorney spent over two hours assessing the family’s homeschooling practices. CPS officials also subpoenaed nearly a dozen public school officials to compare the Tutt children’s academic standing with that of public school students.
Tim Lambert, president of THSC, has described the Tutt family case as a “terrible miscarriage of justice,” telling Christian News Network that it is unlawful in Texas for officials to remove children on the basis of education.
“It is not legal under Texas law to seize children based on their educational status or performance,” Lambert said. “While the original judge had the children removed, the current judge ruled that removal unjustified, but has refused to return all of the children and has made the educational performance of these children a central part of the ongoing case.”
According to THSC, two of the Tutts’ adopted children who were returned home in January are separated from their six-year-old sister (“K”), who was in the process of being adopted by the Tutts. K currently remains in foster care. Last month, Mrs. Tutt and her children (including K’s two siblings) were allowed to visit K for the first time in over a month. One of the Tutts’ friends—who was present during the visitation—described the scene.
“When they bought K out, she grabbed onto Christina and did not want to let go,” the friend recounted, according to a THSC report. “Quickly, the CPS worker got all the kids and we started to follow them into the back room. Then one of the CPS workers stopped Christina and me. I quickly tried to grab the door, which they pulled closed, and we were locked out. Unbelievable.”
According to the Tutts’ friend, the CPS officials only allowed Mrs. Tutt to enter the room after one of the children yelled, “I want my mommy!” Then, the “kids were very relieved to see their mom.”
“So sad what they have and still are putting these kids and their parents though,” the family friend continued. “K kept asking, ‘When can I come home?’”
Lambert told Christian News Network that the Tutt family case is a very troubling infringement on the rights of parents to raise and educate their children.
“THSC is very troubled by the action of this pair of judges who have removed children without justification, by the court’s own admission, and has used this removal as a pretext for usurping decisions of fit parents regarding the educational decisions for their children,” Lambert stated. “If this is allowed to stand, it could set a very bad precedent for all home school families of Texas. A simple call to CPS and an unjustified removal of children could open the door for ongoing and unjustified actions for activist judges and vindictive CPS workers and that puts all home schoolers in Texas at risk.”
Lambert said that THSC representatives will be in a Dallas court next week to request a transcript of the January 7 court hearing. However, the district attorney has filed a motion to prevent THSC from receiving the transcript.