For a full and detailed account of what Christina and Trevor Tutt have experienced over the past four months -- a run-in with CPS, the removal of their children by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, an ongoing legal fight to get them back -- read this.
It's a one-sided narrative compiled from third-party accounts that, given the Tutts' public silence and the black box that is family court, is basically impossible to verify. But this much is clear: Texas' home-school community is pissed.
"What we really have here today is abuse of a Christian family," Tim Lambert, president of the Texas Home School Coalition, declared at a press conference on the steps of the Old Red Courthouse on Wednesday.
There was abuse at the hands of Associate Judge Graciela Olvera of Dallas County's 256th Family District Court, who ordered them removed, and abuse by two
unnamed CPS workers (identified here) who justified the removal by falsely claiming the children were in imminent danger, Lambert said.
Several close friends of Trevor and Christina Tutt flanked Lambert at the press conference, describing the couple as loving, conscientious, exceptional parents. Through these spokespeople, the parents acknowledged that a 4-year-old autistic boy they were caring for did briefly wander away from home one day in September, spurring the CPS investigation. But they dismissed as absurd the notion that the Tutt children were in danger. Nor, they said, did CPS present any evidence that was the case.
"There was never anything alleged to be neglectful or abusive," said Beth Byrum, a family friend who attended a hearing in Olvera's court two weeks after the children were removed. "That's part of what made our head spin."
Instead, they said, the Tutts are being persecuted by a judge and state agency that don't understand why they care for so many kids -- they had seven kids in their custody when CPS showed up: two biological, the rest adopted or in the process of adoption -- or why they would home-school them. (Note: The post originally said some of the children were fostered, which is incorrect. The Tutts used to be CPS-licensed foster parents but now have children placed with them through private adoption.)
The Tutts regained custody of four of the children after a January 7 hearing before another judge. But the others are still in foster care, and those who were returned are being forced to go to public school, the Tutt supporters said.
That's the part that really rankles Lambert. "Texas does not have anything close to educational neglect," he said. Forcing the Tutt children to attend public school violates their parental rights.
The Tutts are going to continue to fight to have all the children returned to their custody and to regain the right to home school. Meanwhile, Lambert is demanding that Olvera be removed from the bench and calling for an investigation of the two CPS workers.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.