Sunday, February 01, 2015

Ordered to speak English to kid

UCLA law professor E. Volokh reports:
Fortunately, a Florida appellate court reversed this order on Friday, in Perez v. Fay (Fla. Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2015). The mother had lost custody, and allowed only supervised visitation, because of her bipolar disorder (and possibly also because of “two criminal offenses in 2010,” though the court doesn’t offer many details on that). But the trial court also required that the mother’s supervised visitation be only in English:
The court [at first] ordered that the Mother could have daily telephone contact with her daughter at a time to be coordinated with and supervised by the Father. And, because the Father did not speak the Mother’s native language — Spanish — the court ordered the Mother to speak only English with her daughter during these daily telephone calls….
Volokh is a big free speech advocate, and he has written against restrictions like this.

I am all in favor of free speech, but this is a silly ruling. The USA is an English-speaking country. Having to speak English is minor compared to all the other court restrictions.

I wonder if the professor understands what "supervised visitation" means. In my experience, it means paying some dopey babysitter $50 per hour to censor what I say to my kids. I once had one tell me that I could not talk math to my kids because a CPS agent once complained that I took them to a math contest. Others had other issues, and would interrupt us for silly reasons.

The whole concept of supervised visitation is offensive to anyone who believes in parental rights and free speech.
The Mother is a native of Venezuela. She speaks English fluently, but Spanish is her native tongue. The Father knew these facts about the Mother when he married and had a child with her. The Father cannot be surprised or complain that the Mother may — from time to time — choose to speak with her daughter in Spanish. Most parents would be pleased to have their child acquire a second language. This should be particularly true for the Spanish language in Florida, where approximately twenty per cent of the population speaks Spanish. ...

In addition, the Florida Constitution guarantees its citizens the right of privacy. In this regard, Article I, section 23 provides, in pertinent part, as follows: “Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein.” Undoubtedly, the sphere of private life in which one must be let alone, free from governmental intrusion, includes the right to speak with one’s child in the language of one’s choosing and not to have that choice dictated by the agents of the state. See Kirton v. Fields, 997 So.2d 349, 352 (Fla.2008) (“Parental authority over decisions involving their minor children derives from the liberty interest contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the guarantee of privacy in article I, section 23 of the Florida Constitution.”).
I am always glad to see some affirmation of parental rights, but this is ridiculous. The mom's parenting has been reduced to phone calls. Whatever constitutional authority she had over their kids has already been taken away. I do not know what justifications that might have had. If she is really some terrible criminal who should not see her kids, then she should have no right to inflict Spanish on them. And no, we do not need more Spanish speakers in Florida. If she is not such a terrible criminal, then zeroing out her custodial rights is the real offense here. Letting her speak Spanish on the phone and nothing else just seems like trouble-making to me.

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