Broward County Circuit Court Sentences 3-Year Old to Full Time Preschool

For many parents, early childcare is a welcome option. Since the average work schedule equals forty hours a week or more, the need is real to have reliable childcare for children as young as 18 months. For most working parents, this is an obligation, not a luxury. However, there are an increasing number of fortunate parents whose work schedule allows them to keep their preschool age children with them at home. Evidence for this trend can easily be found by examining the growing number of companies forced to open employment opportunities for work-at-home parents, and the boom in small office/home office (SOHO) situations. A growing number of parents can now keep children, still in their most formative years, close-by just a while longer before formal schooling thrusts them into the jungle of society. A logical, beneficial arrangement (for the parents as well as the child), one might thinkÖ

But in Broward County, Florida, the court has sweepingly determined that parents working from the home are an inferior substitute for preschool. In an order that should raise the neck hair on the backs of every concerned parent in America, a judge inexplicably ruled that a three and a half-year-old toddler must attend preschool every day from 8:30 am to at least 3 PM, despite (or, almost in the face of) the fact that the childís parent has for the past year specifically arranged to work from home to be with the youth, and makes an above average income as a technical professional. The judge further ordered the minor child to attend after-school and extracurricular events at the school (with the parents footing the bill), even when the child specifically insists he does not want to go. It seems that the courts have now embraced the wisdom to arbitrarily determine the socio-intellectual needs of a child, while at the same time blatantly disregarding established and time-proven family values, morals, and traditions.

Judge Renee Goldenberg of the seventeenth judicial circuit in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, made this ruling February 7, 2001. Judge Goldenberg based her order solely on the testimony of a schoolteacher, who stated that the (newly enrolled) child was sensitive and having adjustment problems. The school in question gave testimony in support of a 5 day, all-day program for the child at the parentís expense. The teacher also stated that the child was very emotional and crying in the morning. "The teacher was trying to make the child comfortable and leaving early Thursday and not coming Friday was hindering the child," said the teacher. The childís parent then testified that the child asks to stay at home, and the parent prefers the child stay at home when possible at his young age. The parentís view was that public school age is the time to enforce regular school attendance, not in the 3rd and 4th year of life. Cross-examination revealed (as the judge clearly noted) that the teacher made untrue statements in her testimony. However, the court still astonishingly found that the teacherís testimony regarding the childís best interest (to attend 5 days of school full time) to be more meaningful than the work-at-home parentís comprehensive experience, values, ethics, and intimate knowledge of the child since birth. And, as if to admit the unwarranted ludicrousness of her ruling, Judge Renee Goldenberg of course gave no rationale or explanation. Amazingly, the courtís own documents had profiled a parent with far superior capabilities in parenting than average, and one who provides a safe, nurturing environment for the child, resulting in a superior bond between the parent and child. Evidently, the court respects its former rulings with as much thought as it places on its current ones. The school in question also offers half-day and part-time programs, a point brought up before the judge. It was also noted in court that the testimony was from a private school, that it was the business of the school to increase childcare attendance to expand the school revenue. Neither was noted in the judges ruling. What she didnít ignore was biased and untrue testimony, perhaps because that was only testimony which coincided with her incongruous philosophies.

Why is this ruling so frighteningly important to individual rights? Why should working parents take notice NOW? Because anyone who calmly believes that personal freedoms and the right to determine the personal welfare of oneís own offspring is guaranteed by the United States Constitution may be sadly mistaken, especially if they find themselves before Judge Renee Goldenberg. In her haphazard attempt to dispose of a matter that she clearly did not have the qualifications to resolve, she simply chose to steamroll over parentsí constitutional rights. This is no longer an issue of whether a parent has the right to determine the path that their child will take, it is an issue that screams of a individualís Constitutional rights being ridiculed and stymied by a court that clearly has another agenda: the systematic elimination of the personal rights and freedoms of parents in Broward County. The time may well come when parents are forced to turn their children over to the State, because the State has determined they can care for the child far better than the lowly parent. Impossible in America you say? Not if Judge Renee Goldenberg has anything to say about it. You have been warned.



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