- Administrative Rules
- Bad Bills Fixed / Threats Averted
- Bad Bills Killed
- Child Protective Services (CPS)
- Court Battles
- Court Battles Won
- Equal Access
- Family Law
- Family Rights
- General History
- Good Bills Passed
- Higher Education
- Parent Taught Drivers Education
- Policy Issue
- Regulations on Political Engagement
- Rules Opposed
- Rules Supported
2019 - 2019 – Bill allowing in-laws to take children from fit parents is defeated by homeschoolers for the fourth time
The Grandparents’ Access Bill was filed for a fourth time during the 86th Texas Legislature, once again by Rep. Harold Dutton as HB 575. THSC rallied opposition from the homeschool community.
At the hearing, 131 people registered against the bill. THSC presented evidence showing that this bill would only worsen the current problem of children being removed from fit parents without accusations of abuse or neglect.
HB 575 was voted out of the House committee but was never scheduled for a floor vote due to the strong opposition from the homeschool community.
2019 - 2019 – Texas attorney general issues opinion defending the right of families to raise and educate their children
On February 22, 2019, Texas Attorney General (AG) Ken Paxton’s office released an official AG opinion, KP-0241. The opinion is essentially an eight-page treatise defending the constitutional right of families to raise their children. In cases dating back as far as 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court have repeatedly upheld the fundamental constitutional right of families to raise their children.
The opinion states in part that:
“The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects certain fundamental parental rights, including the right of the parent to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children, to direct the upbringing and education of their children, and, in conjunction with the First Amendment, to guide the religious future and education of their children.”
This AG opinion clearly outlines the right of families to raise and educate their children without government interference. As part of the process, THSC coordinated with State Rep. James White to issue a formal request for the opinion. THSC also researched nearly 100 years of case law from the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, in addition to leading a coalition of organizations that filed a supporting brief with the AG’s office defending the constitutional right of families to raise and educate their children.
2018 - 2018 – Third Court of Appeals dismisses suit by THSC against Texas Ethics Commission (TEC), stating that the TEC clearly lacks authority to regulate THSC and other non-profits
After an appeal to the Third Court of Appeals, the court heard oral arguments in November 2017 and dismissed the case in November 2018. The court emphasized that its ruling was based on an admission by the TEC that they lacked authority to regulate nonprofit groups such as THSC.
When the case arrived at the Third Court of Appeals, the TEC had painted itself into a corner. It could either argue that:
- The law granted the TEC authority to regulate nonprofits such as THSC, knowing that the courts would rule against them; or,
- That the new speech regulations did not apply to nonprofit corporations such as THSC, thereby freeing THSC and other nonprofits to continue unhindered in their free speech.
Likely to avoid the risk of having to pay THSC’s legal fees in the event of a loss, the TEC chose the second option. During oral arguments before the Third Court of Appeals in November 2017, the TEC managed to avoid addressing how they had routinely threatened nonprofits, including THSC, with investigation and regulation. They instead argued that nonprofits such as THSC could not be subject to the new rules at all and that the suit should therefore be dismissed.
But there’s a catch—in a contradiction that only a government agency could rationalize, this argument came after the TEC had signed a preliminary injunction agreeing not to enforce the regulations so long as THSC’s election-related spending remained below 20 percent of our budget. Why would the TEC agree to this injunction if they never believed that THSC was subject to the regulations in the first place?
On Tuesday, November 6, the Third Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, conditioning their decision on the TEC’s new position that THSC and similar nonprofits could not be subject to this unconstitutional regulation.
This decision ensured that THSC and other Texas nonprofits could freely engage in political speech without fear of TEC regulation.
In 2017, State Sen. Carlos Uresti filed SB 190 which gave the DFPS and its subsidiary CPS the ability to administratively close reported cases of abuse or neglect if CPS possesses no actual evidence of such. This allows CPS and DFPS to focus their efforts on cases in which there is real evidence of abuse or neglect and limit instances in which innocent families are dragged through an excessive amount of legal proceedings. SB 190 also serves as a safeguard for homeschool families as CPS often unfairly uses homeschooling as a reason for removing the children from their home. THSC strongly supported SB 190 and had a role in the bill’s eventual passage.
In 2017, State Rep. Moody filed HB 2866 which mandated that the DFPS conduct a mental health assessment on any child in the department’s conservatorship within 72 hours of the child entering their conservatorship. THSC saw this as a potential way for the department to abuse their power, which they have a history of doing, by allowing them to fish for evidence against parents. A child who has recently been removed from their home is unlikely to be in a positive state of mind and CPS could try to use this against the parents. THSC opposed HB 2866 and was a factor in the bill’s death in the House Public Health Committee.
In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature passed HB 2849 by State Rep. Burkett. This bill required that the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) remove an individual from its central abuse and neglect registry if that individual was later found innocent. THSC supported HB 2849 and testified in favor of the bill in the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee.
In 2017, State Rep. Burkett filed HB 1549 which would have dramatically expanded the power of CPS to target innocent families. HB 1549 would have allowed CPS to make regular monthly visits to the homes of entirely innocent families that CPS merely believed to be “at risk” of committing abuse or neglect at some point in the future. The bill contained no requirement that these families already be subject to an investigation for abuse or neglect. Rather, it would have allowed CPS to visit the home of any family that they believed displayed “risk factors” and could schedule monthly visits to that family’s home.
A “risk factor” under this bill could be anything that CPS believed would make a child susceptible to abuse or neglect. One determinant of “high risk” specifically mentioned in the bill is whether the family is more than 50 percent below poverty level.
THSC fought this bill throughout the legislative process:
- THSC worked with advocates, attorneys and legislators to amend the bill on the House floor.
- THSC fended off last-minute attempts to add dangerous language back into the bill.
- THSC achieved victory when threatening sections were successfully kept out of the bill.
This was accomplished before HB 1549 passed and was sent to Governor Abbott for his signature.
2017 - 2017 – Bill allowing in-laws to take children from fit parents is defeated by homeschoolers for the third time
During the 85th Texas Legislature, the Grandparents’ Access Bill was filed for the third time by State Rep. Harold Dutton as House Bill (HB) 3806. Just as in the previous three legislative sessions, homeschoolers strongly opposed the bill and caused it to die in the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee.
2017 - 2017 – Parent-Child Protection Act is passed, protecting homeschool families in CPS investigations
During the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017, homeschoolers were instrumental in passing nine major CPS reforms which were collectively referred to as the Parent-Child Protection Act.
The Parent-Child Protection Act made significant reforms by adding due process protections for families in the CPS system. One key provision prohibited CPS from investigating a family based on the family’s decision to homeschool their children or decline a vaccination.
In total, nine major reforms were passed:
- Families may not be investigated and parental rights may not be terminated based on a family’s decision to homeschool or decline a vaccination.
- CPS caseworkers and courts must complete CPS cases within the statutory one-year deadline.
- Siblings involved in the same CPS investigation are now processed by the same court or judge.
- Courts may no longer terminate parental rights because of a parent’s inability to complete CPS services.
- Courts may now postpone a show cause hearing for up to one week when requested by the parent or their attorney.
- The parental rights of both parents may no longer be terminated unless there is evidence against both parents to support termination.
- Courts are now prohibited from holding a hearing without parents present unless specifically authorized in the Texas Family Code.
- Courts are now required to find an actual risk of harm to a child in non-emergency circumstances before ordering the child removed from the home.
- In response to complaints from anonymous sources, CPS is only allowed to visit a family’s home if the alleged abuse or neglect cannot be “confirmed or clearly ruled out without a home visit.”
2017 - 2017 – Tutt family homeschool case finally ends after more than three years of abuse by CPS and Texas courts
By this point, all of the Tutt’s biological children had been returned home. Seven-year-old K., the biological sister of two other adopted Tutt children, remained in foster care (where she had been for more than a year). K. was repeatedly reprimanded for insisting that her last name was “Tutt,” but was allowed to visit her two siblings on a weekly basis. CPS continued to work aggressively to prevent the Tutts from adopting K.
Her biological mother (in jail on murder charges) had previously signed a document waiving her parental rights and allowing the Tutts to adopt her three children. However, CPS acted as though she had never done so and went to court to terminate her rights, forcing the Tutts to testify at the hearing.
Like many families in these horrific situations, the Tutts were traumatized by the multiple investigations, the constant threats by CPS to start another investigation and the string of false abuse allegations. Their hearts were broken knowing that K. had spent more than three-and-a-half years in foster care while CPS and the judges did everything possible to delay a trial. THSC fought for the Tutts this whole time to reunite their family and to allow the family to continue homeschooling.
Despite several requests to speed up K.’s return to the Tutts (including a joint trial with others involved in the case) the judge refused. Ultimately, to protect their family and K. (who was still in foster care) from further abuse by CPS, the Tutts were forced to make a heart-wrenching decision and cancelled their plans to adopt K.
Because of the gross injustice and incompetence displayed by CPS and the judges involved in this case, the Parent-Child Protection Act was filed to reform CPS procedures and restore due process for Texas families.