in a recent decision. The kids were sending some provocative but legal messages and
pictures on cell phones, and had been ordered to take some classes to avoid prosecution.
A law professor blog explains:
(3) Threatening to prosecute the children for refusing to attend the education program interfered with the parents’ parental rights and the children’s rights to be free of compelled speech, because it threatened governmental retaliation for the exercise of constitutional rights. ...I wonder about the constitutionality of family courts that regularly send parents off to parenting classes for the flimsiest of reasons. The local family court here will do it without any accusation of anything illegal or harmful to the kids. The reason might be as trivial as a child complaining about eating vegetables.
At the same time, it’s important to realize the potential breadth of such a holding: It would mean that pretrial diversion programs that seek to substitute rehabilitative education for prosecution, in cases (usually involving first offenses or not very serious offenses) far beyond sexting — for instance, drug crimes, drunk driving, assault, domestic violence, child neglect, traffic law violations, and the like — would be presumptively unconstitutional. Such coerced participation in “the education program[s] would violate [defendants’] First Amendment freedom against compelled speech” just as coerced participation in anti-sexting classes would (probably even as to adults and certainly as to minors).
The parenting classes do not just explain the law, or even consensus child-rearing practices. They teach narrow-minded ideas about how parents ought to behave, and they require the parents to agree. If the parents do not agree, then the teacher sends a bad report to the family court.
I do think that these parenting classes ought to be unconstitutional. They are taught by the sort of people who would be horrible parents, and they are used to thwart completely legitimate parenting practices. The orders are un-American.