Warning against any effort to deprive parents of their fundamental right to be actively involved in their child’s educational experience, including access to school grounds, The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a Texas mother who has been banned from her children’s elementary school campus and threatened with arrest, allegedly because she was overheard using “inappropriate language” in a conversation with another parent. The mother denies using any inappropriate language. Pointing out that the trespass warning against Yvonne Garcia, whose two children, ages 7 and 11, attend Forbes Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, is overreaching, egregious and unlawful, Rutherford Institute attorneys are demanding that school officials immediately reinstate Ms. Garcia’s right of access to the school grounds. Institute attorneys also point out that the school’s decision to deprive Ms. Garcia of access to her children while at school, even to drop off or pick up her children, without explanation or an opportunity to defend herself, flies in the face of longstanding recognition by the courts that parents have a liberty interest in the “care, custody, and control of their children.”
“Hate crime laws, anti-bullying statutes, zero tolerance policies, trespassing warnings–these policies may have started out with the best of intentions to make students and schools safer, but what they have accomplished is transforming the schools into quasi-prisons, microcosms of the emerging American police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “This is the danger of allowing government officials to prioritize so-called security needs over Americans’ constitutional rights: rather than pursuing rational policies that foster safer environments, they demand total compliance and advocate a totalitarian mindset which punishes any deviation whatsoever, no matter how insignificant.”
On Monday, December 9, 2013, when Yvonne Garcia arrived at Forbes Elementary School to pick up her children, she was confronted by police officers who were awaiting her arrival. The officers informed her that she was barred from entering the school because she had allegedly used “inappropriate language” while on campus the previous Friday. Ms. Garcia was also given a letter informing her that she is banned from being present on school grounds, even to drop off and pick up her children, or meet with school personnel about her children’s health and educational progress. The following day, Ms. Garcia was granted “limited permission” to access school grounds when “dropping off [her] children,” which requires her to drop off her children in an inaccessible and inconvenient area behind the school gym. In order to pick up her children, Ms. Garcia has to park her vehicle across the street from the school grounds and wait while her children are escorted to her vehicle by a school official. This arrangement requires that the Garcia children leave class 15 minutes early each day and wait for their escort in the principal’s office, publicly embarrassing and stigmatizing them to the other schoolchildren. The trespass order also prevents Ms. Garcia from being present at her son’s upcoming graduation ceremony.
Noting that the situation has become untenable and is causing the Garcia children great anxiety, to such an extent that one of the children has suffered increasing bouts of anxiety attacks, Rutherford Institute attorneys have requested a response from school officials by Monday, April 28, 2014.