Tag Archives: parents

ACLU files lawsuit on naming of Brentwood baby

News release from American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee
NASHVILLE – In an effort to protect Tennessee parents’ First Amendment right to name their own children, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a Brentwood family.

When Dr. Carl Abramson and Kimberly Sarubbi married, they decided to keep their last names for personal and professional reasons. However, when their first child was born, they did not want her to share a last name with only one parent, nor did they want to hyphenate their names. Ultimately they determined that a combination of the beginning letters of both of their last names, Sabr, would be the best surname for their children. Their first two children, born in Nevada and California, share this last name. However this past summer, when their third child was born in Tennessee, the state Department of Health denied their request to use the name and issued a birth certificate for the child with the last name “Abramson.”

“Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Carolyn W. Schott of Sherrard & Roe PLC. “Naming our own children is not only a very personal decision, it’s also an act of free expression, protected by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.”

ACLU-TN filed the lawsuit, Abramson et. al. v. Dreyzehner et. al., in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee today.

“Like all parents, we thought long and hard about what we wanted to name our kids,” said Sarubbi. “The name Sabr reflects both our individual families and the union of those families through our marriage and our kids.”

“As two states have already recognized with our older children, we have the right as parents to name our children what we want,” said Abramson. “Our children’s names do not impact the state in any way, but they mean a lot to our family.”

In addition to Schott, the Sabr family is represented by Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. The plaintiffs are seeking an order from the court declaring this state law unconstitutional.

A copy of the complaint filed today is available HERE (with some information redacted)

Supremes back Italian dad in dispute with TN surrogate mother

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld a portion of a contract in which a Tennessee woman agreed to act as a surrogate mother for an Italian couple who were unable to have children on their own.

The Italian couple, referred to as the “intended parents,” contacted the surrogate through a surrogacy agency. In July 2010, the surrogate, her husband, and the intended parents signed a contract for a “traditional surrogacy.” In the contract, the surrogate and her husband agreed to give the child to the intended parents after birth.

By way of artificial insemination by the intended father, the surrogate became pregnant in April 2011. Over the course of the pregnancy, the intended parents paid medical expenses, legal fees, and other costs totaling approximately $70,000. Two months prior to the birth of the child, the parties filed a joint petition asking the juvenile court to declare the paternity of the child, grant custody to the intended parents, and terminate the parental rights of the surrogate.

The juvenile court granted the petition. On January 7, 2012, the surrogate gave birth to a girl. Following the advice of medical personnel, the parties agreed that the surrogate should breastfeed the child for a short period of time. When the child was almost one week old, the surrogate changed her mind about giving the baby to the intended parents and asked the juvenile court to award her custody. The juvenile court denied her request and gave custody to the intended parents. The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling.

On further appeal, the Supreme Court observed that the General Assembly has recognized the concept of traditional surrogacy by statute and that state law does not prohibit traditional surrogacy contracts. The Court found, however, that another statute prohibits the termination of the parental rights of the surrogate mother prior to birth. Because the juvenile court did not have a lawful basis for terminating the surrogate mother’s parental rights before the birth of the child, the Court remanded the dispute to the juvenile court to determine the issues of visitation and child support, but upheld the award of custody to the father. The child has now been in the custody of the father for over two years.

Justice William C. Koch, Jr., wrote a separate concurring opinion in which he asserted that the Court should not address the question of whether surrogacy contracts violate state public policy.

Note: The full main opinion is HERE. Koch’s concurring opinion, HERE.

Campfield Revises Bill Tying Welfare Benefits to School Grades

A state Senate committee passed an amended version of a bill reducing federal welfare benefits for families with students who fail a grade in school, reports The Tennessean.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, would reduce a parent’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments by up to 30 percent for students who fail a grade. It was amended to limit maximum penalties to parents who do not attend parent-teacher conferences, enroll their child in tutoring or attend a parenting course.
Special needs students would be exempt from the law. The original legislation garnered national attention, although current Tennessee law already allows for a 25 percent reduction in some benefits based on a student’s truancy rate.
After the legislation passed out of the Senate Health Committee in a 7-1 vote, the Knoxville Republican said his intent was to help parents give their children the best education possible.
“It’s really just something to try to get parents involved with their kids,” he said. “We have to do something.”

Haslam Pans Gay Counseling Notification Bill

Legislation that would require school counselors to tell parents about their child’s homosexuality “isn’t getting much traction with Gov. Bill Haslam,” reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Haslam told Chattanooga Times Free Press editors and reporters Thursday that the legislation from Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is a variation of the conservative firebrand’s previous so-called “don’t say gay” legislation.
“I know it’s kind of a revised form of a bill that came up last year,” Haslam said. “At the time I didn’t feel the bill last year was needed, and I don’t really think this one is needed either.”
Campfield defended his bill this week, telling the Knoxville News Sentinel “it’s ridiculous to say we should shield parents from that information” about homosexual activity, noting it can be dangerous because of AIDs and sexually-transmitted disease.
“I think it’s important that, if they’re doing something that’s potentially dangerous or life-threatening, that you should get parents involved,” he said.
Haslam said when he’s out speaking to people or groups like the Chattanooga Rotary Club, which he addressed earlier Thursday, “those aren’t the questions people ask me about, they’re not. People do ask me about what are you doing to bring more jobs here, what are you doing so our kids aren’t 40th in education.”
Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project, a gay rights group, said Campfield’s bill “would force educators to ‘out’ students to their parents and risk family rejection before a student is ready to deal with issues of coming out.”
The gay rights group has fought previous versions of Campfield’s “don’t say gay” bill, which effectively seeks to ban classroom discussion of gay sex through eighth grade. The current legislation does that as well. While it doesn’t mention homosexuality, it refers to behavior “inconsistent with natural human reproduction.”
It then delves into counseling, saying the measure wouldn’t prevent a counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal “from responding appropriately to a student whose circumstances present immediate and urgent safety issues involving human sexuality.

Campfield Bill: Don’t Teach Gay, Do Tell Parents

Sen. Stacey Campfield’s new version of legislation known as “don’t say gay” in past years allows counseling of students on homosexuality, but calls for notification of a youth’s parents when counseling occurs.
Campfield, R-Knoxville, has entitled the new bill, SB234, “Classroom Protection Act.” It generally prohibits in grades kindergarten through eight “classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction.”
Critics of similar past legislation have complained that teachers could be prohibited from answering questions or counseling troubled students if the topic involves homosexuality. The new bill explicitly excludes a teacher “answering in good faith” any questions related to the subject being taught and says school nurses, counselors, principals and assistant principals can counsel students.
But it also says, “Parents or legal guardians of students who receive such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such counseling has occurred.” The provision has been widely criticized on several blogs as potentially creating situation that could discourage troubled students from seeking counseling when dealing with sexual abuse, bullying or even contemplation of suicide.
Campfield said, however, “it’s ridiculous to say we should shield parents from that information” about homosexual activity, which can be dangerous because of AIDs and sexually-transmitted disease.
“I think it’s important that, if they’re doing something that’s potentially dangerous or life-threatening, that you should get parents involved,” he said.
The Senate approved an earlier version of “don’t say gay” in 2011, but the bill later died in the House and never became law. Campfield said the new version is “completely different” and “gets rid of some of the old perceptions” about the legislation.

Senate Joins House in Passing School Activities ‘Opt Out’ Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee parents would be able to opt their children out of extracurricular school activities under a proposal that has passed the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville was approved 30-0 on Wednesday. The companion bill passed the House 75-14 last month.
The lower chamber must now agree to minor changes by the Senate before the legislation goes to the governor for his consideration.
Under the legislation, schools would notify parents about the activities “by way of student handbooks or policy guidebooks.”
Sponsors say those parents who don’t want their children to participate in a certain activity can send a note to the school.

Child Custody Change Nears Passage in Legislature

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill close to passing the state legislature would require judges to consider how to maximize a parent’s involvement in a child’s life when making custody decisions.
Although not the only factor to be considered, legal experts say the call for “maximum participation” could lead some judges to increase visitation time or divide custody 50-50 more often.
The bill, which has already passed in the House, is set to be heard on the Senate floor Wednesday.
The proposed law says courts still have to consider what is in the child’s best interest, how far the parents live from one another and the child’s need for stability.
The bill, if it passes, would only apply to new custody orders going forward. Parents under older court orders would have to show a significant change in circumstances to change their custody schedules.

Campfield Moves to Broaden Parental Involvement in School Activities

Knoxville Senator Stacey Campfield brought a new twist to his parental involvement bill Monday night – a requirement that a parent sign off on every thing a student does that’s not part of formal classwork, according to WPLN’s Joe White.
Campfield’s bill (SB426) originally called for school systems to send home a list of clubs and organizations on each campus, so that parents could veto some in advance. Opponents claimed Campfield was targeting clubs that address gay issues.
But when the bill hit the Senate floor, Campfield unveiled a more sweeping version – now a parent would have to send a separate permission slip for any and all extracurricular activities.
“Some parents may not want kids to be involved in clubs, for whatever reasons. They may say, Hey, Johnny or Billy is doing poor in school, I don’t want him doing chess club, or dance club or whoever knows what club. We may want him to be studying, instead. This is just to give those parents that approval power, similar to what we do for sports.”
Some Senators called Campfield’s new version overkill. They spun stories of their own children’s involvement with the school system – a not-so-subtle dig at Campfield, a bachelor with no children of his own.

Campfield sent the bill back to Senate Education Committee, which will meet Wednesday.

Parkinson’s Bill on Grading Parents Draws Interest (though it won’t pass this year)

The newest member of the Tennessee House of Representatives has taken a look at the Legislature’s landscape of changes for education this year and has drawn a basic conclusion, reports Mike Morrow.
“We’re in a period of education reform in Tennessee, and everybody is being held accountable — except the parents,” said Rep. Antonio “2 Shay” Parkinson, who was elected to replace Ulysses Jones following the longtime House District 98 Democrat’s death in November.
Parkinson, a Shelby County firefighter and retired U.S. Marine, introduced legislation this year that proposes a fairly novel approach to encouraging parental involvement in the education of their children. Parkinson’s bill, HB1887, would have teachers give parents grades on their involvement with their students’ education. The grade-range would include “excellent,” “satisfactory,” “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory.”
The parent’s grade would appear on the same report card that grades the student. Parkinson’s focus is on Pre-K through 3rd grades, which he says are the “foundation years” in the life of a student.
Parkinson’s bill won’t pass in the 2011 session of the General Assembly. The House Education Committee has already ordered it to a summer study committee. But while Parkinson might have proposed a practice some would call off-the-wall, he has received a noticeably receptive bipartisan audience to his proposal.