By Robert Stitt
Chris and Nicole Zimmer of Belvidere, New Jersey homeschool their son. Earlier this year, they faced what many of us dread about our government, a self-righteous social worker with a god-complex bent on shaming them and teaching them a lesson for failing to bow down to the system. The Zimmers are fighting back to the tune of $60 million.
Social worker Michelle Marchese showed up at the door of the Zimmer’s home in January and demanded entry. Mr. Zimmer refused and called the police. Marchese became increasingly belligerent and told them that she needed to investigate a complaint about improper homeschooling.
According to My9NJ, Marchese demanded entry and told the parents they “had ten minutes or else.” The police agreed with the social worker and told the parents to let her in. ChristianNews reports that the parents were terrified that the state was going to take their son, so they opened the door.
Marchese spent the next two hours “question[ing] their 15-year-old son Chris on everything from whether the Zimmers fought or did drugs or beat him.” She demanded to review homeschooling test scores and curriculum, medical records, and even wanted to see how easy it was to break into a locked cabinet to retrieve firearms. “She took it upon herself to try to pry open the door with her fingers, but it was locked … Then she said, ‘You need to show me the guns; open the safe.’”
There was no complaint about abuse or neglect. This was, it seems, simply harassment over homeschooling. The Zimmers got a letter in the mail a few weeks later stating, “We were unable to complete our assessment as it pertains to a referral made to our agency on 1/07/15, as you were unwilling to cooperate with the CWS referral process. Therefore, DCP&P will not be providing services to your child and your family at this time. … Thank you for your cooperation during our recent contacts.”
First, there was no “request” for assistance. Second, the letter says that they were not cooperative and then thanks them for their cooperation. Third, the letter says the family will not be receiving “services to your child and your family at this time”. What services are being denied? The service of having your rights violated?
The Zimmers filed a lawsuit against the department and Marchese. The state initially responded that the department “was simply fulfilling its duty by ‘following up’ on a complaint and that ‘a parent’s right to familial integrity does not include a right to remain free from child abuse investigations.’”
The Zimmers pressed back with the assertion “there is a constitutional fundamental right to be free from child abuse investigations where there is ‘no reasonable and articulable evidence giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or is in imminent danger of abuse.’”
More than anything, the Zimmers want the department held accountable for overstepping their rights. They want families in our country to be safe from the government showing up at the door and demanding entry, terrorizing your children, and if you don’t comply they take your kids away.
The Zimmers said that if they win the lawsuit, the money will be donated to help other families who are being wrongfully harassed by the government.