Allison-Blake

Allison Blake, NJ commissioner of Children and Families is one of the defendants in the lawsuit. Photo courtesy of app.com.

Home schooling was focus of Child Protection investigation, N.J. family says

By Emily Cummins
NJ.com

Excerpts:

A Warren County (New Jersey) family is suing the state’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency for alleged unconstitutional home intrusion and civil rights violations.

Christopher Zimmer and his wife Nicole, of Belvidere, filed a civil rights complaint in United States District Court in Trenton against DCP&P, a DCP&P supervisor and one of its case workers for an alleged “unlawful and unconstitutional home intrusion of their home.”

“I won’t forget that morning for a long, long time,” said Mr. Zimmer, thinking back to a Tuesday morning in January that began with a caseworker pounding on their door.

Mr. Zimmer said that the caseworker demanded she be let inside, adding that the family did not have a choice. Startled by her aggression, Mr. Zimmer questioned why she was there.

The Zimmers allege that the caseworker refused to answer the question, until later admitting that the homeschooling of 15-year-old Christopher Zimmer, Jr. was the focus of her investigation.

Not knowing the extent of his rights, Mr. Zimmer called town police to sort out the matter, but police ultimately said the caseworker was allowed to come into the house.

At that point, the family made a decision more out of fear than logic.

Mr. Zimmer let the woman inside their home, attempting to prove he had nothing to hide, but after two hours of questioning that the family describes as interrogation, it became clear that this would not end quickly.

“My fear was, if I didn’t let her in the house, if I had closed the door and didn’t let her in the house then the police would be knocking at the door and think I’m hiding something,” he said.

The questions started out simple, asking about home life and happiness, but Mr. Zimmer said the questions soon became invasive and pointed, feeling like traps.

Focusing on what the Zimmers believe was a tip about “improper homeschooling” filed confidentially by a juvenile known to their son, the caseworker asked to see records of attendance, textbooks and test scores.

Their suit alleges that home schooling issues aren’t the responsibility of the DCP&P.

“What really upset me was, she asked my son what he wants to be when he grows up … he wants to be in the Marines and be a Marine scout sniper,” Mr. Zimmer said.

As a hunting family, Mr. Zimmer freely admitted that he and his son are licensed to hunt through the state and that there are a few guns in the house in a locked safe, with ammunition stored separately in accordance with the law.

Asking to see his safe, located in the master bedroom, Mr. Zimmer obliged.

“She took it upon herself to try to pry open the door with her fingers, but it was locked like I said. Then she said, ‘You need to show me the guns; open the safe.’ I knew what my rights were, but I was trying to cooperate with her,” he said.

Seemingly satisfied with that line of questioning, the case worker said that the investigation would continue and that DCPP would report back with ways to “tweak” the family’s homeschooling routine, Mr. Zimmer said.

Although they knew they had done nothing wrong, the Zimmers felt the need to protect themselves and began calling attorneys that week.

“We’re not looking for money; we didn’t set out with that in mind,” Mr. Zimmer said. “I got him to protect us so that they wouldn’t come back and take my son with some accusation that they’d fabricate.”

Read the Full Story Here.

 

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