Kentucky Family Investigated for Failing to Social Distance
After relocating from New York, the Sabbatino family of Kentucky is being investigated for failing to “social distance” during a visit to a local bank in March. Following their move, the Sabbatinos needed to open a joint account in person, and brought five of their seven children inside the bank branch because they were too young to be left outside or in the car alone, even with older siblings.
The teller immediately reacted, interrogating the parents as to why they had brought the children inside. She said they could not come within six feet of her due to social distancing guidelines, and to take them out. So one parent at a time completed the necessary paperwork while the other remained at a distance with the children.
After leaving the bank, the couple joked about the teller’s overreaction, even given the mounting COVID-19 scare, only to discover a state trooper and a Child Protective Services caseworker waiting to investigate them for potential child abuse when they arrived at home. The trooper explained they had received an anonymous hotline tip that “a mother of five had taken her children out with a man who wasn’t their dad, and they had bruises on their arms that indicated grabbing.” After Mr. Sabbatino handed the trooper his driver’s license, Mrs. Sabbatino provided the children’s birth certificates as proof that her husband was indeed their father. She pointed out that the children had all been wearing jackets during the outing since it was a cold day, and therefore it would have been impossible for anyone to have seen bruises on their upper arms.
Nonetheless, the caseworker questioned the children away from the parents and took photos, pulling up the little girls’ sleeves and making one of the boys take off his shirt. When it became known that the children were being homeschooled, he wanted a formal investigation.
The Family Fights Back
Reason.com confirmed the existence of a complaint by the Sabbatinos against the Kentucky authorities. Mrs. Sabbatino eventually came forward, telling Glenn Beck of Blaze TV: “After all was said and done after the initial call…now he [the caseworker] wants an investigation because why am I homeschooling and how can I give adequate attention to that many children.”
Jim Mason of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) blamed the false allegations “on panic over COVID-19 social distancing rules.” While the Sabbatinos assume the tip line caller had to have been inside the bank, Mason told Reason.com in a phone interview that this person “provided the exact kind of information—bruising, suspicious persons, etc.—that prompts a CPS investigation.” Thus, whoever made the call knew what he or she was doing.
‘Off Ramp’ Legislation
HSLDA and other homeschool advocacy groups support the passage of “Off Ramp” legislation, which would require investigators to simply end an investigation when no wrongdoing is found and no red flags are raised. Mason described the concept this way: “In theory, once an investigator gets to a home, checks for the supposed crime and comes up empty handed, he or she should turn around and leave—i.e., take the off ramp. Anything else is such a terrible thing and a waste of time.”
The HSLDA is working with the Sabbatinos, but Mason says the state “gets 45 days to close an investigation and can easily obtain an extension,” so that the pain of unfounded allegations can turn into a lengthy period of trial for innocent parents. With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to rage, the opportunity for similar situations to arise is increased.
Ironically and even sadly, the Sabbatinos left New York in hopes of escaping such oppressive nanny-state tactics, but instead are facing similar torment in Kentucky. The Blaze, 5-4-20; Reason.com 4-28-20
Education News Briefs
The shift to online learning due to COVID-19 has opened the door to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence on U.S. schoolchildren.
Lingo Bus, a subsidiary of the China-based company VIPkid, is an online learning platform championed in Utah by former State Senator Howard Stephenson as part of the curriculum for 15,000 students from 76 Utah public schools. Stephenson’s affiliation with The Confucius Institute, which “serves as the international propaganda arm of the CCP” and currently operates on an estimated 90 U.S. college campuses, likely helped facilitate the move. Under the guise of “a broader Chinese language initiative,” Lingo Bus is described as a trojan horse for the teaching of Chinese Communist culture, morality and values. Lessons do not include any mention of Taiwan as independent of China or of the massacre at Tiananmen Square. The National Pulse, 4-27-20; WorldNetDaily, 6-1-20
The 2020 National Education Association’s (NEA) Representative Assembly (RA) will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its agenda will be limited. The NEA concedes that “a virtual meeting will have its limitations,” citing the uncertainty of available access to technology and reliable phone service for the thousands of delegates scattered throughout the U.S. For many years, Education Reporter has published NEA convention highlights and many of the egregious “resolutions” the teacher’s union adopts at this annual event. Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency reports that, while the NEA Resolutions Committee did hold its winter meeting in March, the proposed changes will not be voted on until next year’s convention. Stay tuned for more information on these proposals in a future issue of Education Reporter. NEA Today, 4-20-20
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood, originally published by McClelland & Stewart, 1986
Who are the women in billowy red robes, looking as though they have just stepped out of an Elizabethan time machine into contemporary Washington, D.C.? They were seen in costume protesting outside the
Kavanaugh hearings and stood out at the Women’s March in their habits and white winged caps, personifying the “handmaid” character from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale published more than 25 years ago in 1986.
Atwood’s book imagines a future earth ravaged by pollution and disease. The Caucasian population crashes. Panicked white men take over a large portion of the United States and turn it into a patriarchy called Gilead. They rescind the legal rights of women and minorities. The handmaids are forced to serve as surrogate wombs for the Commanders and their sterile wives. In The Handmaid’s Tale, a young woman known by the pseudonym “Offred” journals her existence as the handmaid of Commander Fred.
Second-wave feminism feared that women’s gains would be eroded during the Reagan era. But while the oppression of women certainly occurs in some places around the globe, our Constitution guarantees women equal rights with men here in the United States. Therefore, it’s difficult to imagine these dystopian scenes occurring in the foreseeable future in Massachusetts, where the story is set. As Offred narrates her days interacting with the other characters, the reader gleans random facts about Gilead’s structure and history. However, so much is left unexplained that the reader has difficulty accepting the premises of the story. How could a revolution like this succeed if carried out by a small minority of the population? Does Atwood think that all or most men would be complicit?
Atwood links the patriarchal structure of Gilead to Judeo-Christian tradition. Her characters quote fragments of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. For example, the Commander’s household gathers weekly for Bible readings, but the Commander takes verses out of context in order to reinforce the oppressive practices of Gilead’s administrators. Offred views scriptural teachings as archaic and irrelevant. She observes:
It’s the usual story, the usual stories. God to Adam, God to Noah. Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Then comes the moldy old Rachel and Leah stuff we had drummed into us at the Center. (p. 88)
Atwood reveals her own feminist ideals through Offred, who reflects on her losses. Before the Revolution, she had a secure job and income, an egalitarian marriage, and one child in daycare. Offred misses her female coworkers and friends, but trusts no male. Even Luke, Offred’s husband, entertained sympathy for the Revolution at first.
This book is not for younger readers as it includes descriptions of rape and other sex scenes and contains profane language. It falls short on plot, requiring the reader to blindly accept the novel’s implausible premises. One can, however, read it to better understand the symbolism of the Handmaid for feminists. Her message: “Sisters, beware. Your career, family and freedom will never be truly safe from the patriarchy.”
Linda Rusenovich is a free-lance writer, who discusses political ideas with her Great Books group, and has spoken up for the American flag and conservative values before her local Board of Education. She recently celebrated 34 years of marriage and is the mother of four adult children.
Editor’s Note: While The Handmaid’s Tale was initially published in 1986, it remains an important book today because of its resurgence in popularity since the 2016 elections. The handmaid costume itself has become a symbol of abortion rights, which was used by feminists to protest the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as the review notes. Groups clad in handmaid’s gear have also appeared at venues outside of the nation’s capital, including the Golden Globe awards in Hollywood in 2018. A (streaming) television series based on The Handmaid’s Tale premiered in April of 2017 on Hulu.
Despite numerous attempts to ban the book over the years, mostly because of its sexually explicit content and profanity, it remains required reading in some high schools and middle schools. Parents may be allowed to request an alternative, but often, they are not even aware that their children are being exposed to such brutally graphic content as rape, torture, kidnapping, and police brutality. The book’s dystopian message is that biblical Christianity is bad, and deeper even than that, it foreshadows the demise of the United States as a nation, to be replaced by totalitarianism; not exactly uplifting reading for young minds still in their formative stages.