Part II: The devil is in the details

By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
web posted October 4, 1999

Read part one here

History has long taught us that wealth does not necessarily indicate security, and that poverty does not necessarily denote moral frivolity. Caught between the environs of these two worlds are the working class, sometimes surviving paycheck to paycheck, possessing the means to visualize a brighter future for their children but not always the means to obtain it.

This is the world were Karen Maple lived, the world she fought to change for her children.

Sadly, in the real world, members of the working class are often easily manipulated by those in positions of authority. Without the financial means to sustain them, their only recourse is outside support.

When the video "Fugitive From Injustice: The Karen Maple Story" landed in my mailbox, I knew I would finally have a face to match that soft, breaking, youthful voice. The video, made by the State Chair of the Vermont Libertarian Party, shows Karen and a party representative talking candidly in the garden of a friend's home about her situation.

Karen is a petite woman with demure features, large brimmed glasses, and straight auburn hair. Her manner of dress was conservative and uncomplicated. She appeared nervous at the beginning of the video, but as the discussion progressed, her anxiety eased. She looked, in both manner and form, to be an average working class mother.

The video is important for several reasons: it allowed me to examine Karen's body language while she spoke (a key element absent from our telephone discussions) and she provided several other details not noted during our conversations.

For example:

  • After Karen pulled her children from Bakersfield, she sent them to Camel's Hump Middle School. The school was located in her father's district. In order for the boys to legally attend school in her father's local district, she had to relinquish custody of the children to him. She did so, and the boys lived with the Grandfather so they could attend the other school. This situation sapped Karen's strength and wore on her children, so she began searching for alternatives. The boys were enrolled in Camel's Hump Middle School until 1996, when she opted for homeschooling instead.

    Ironically, when she brought the boys home and the authorities determined they were no longer living with their legal guardian, they decided not the press kidnapping charges against her; they concluded the boys were being adequately provided for in Karen's home.
  • A local private school also offered Trevor a spot on their roster; however, religious education was part of the curriculum and Karen did not hold any spiritual beliefs. She did not think it was right to accept their assistance, especially if she couldn't honestly support their doctrine.
  • Because approval of her home-schooling curriculum became such a key issue, Karen attempted to obtain a Special Education Due Process Hearing to determine if Trevor actually qualified for an IEP. The school reportedly filed documents to block it, and a mediator agreed that a special education teacher could come to Karen's house and provide the services required by the IEP.

    In the video, Karen alleges that the school sent a teacher to her home for one week. Karen and the teacher reportedly got along nicely; however, the teacher advised Karen during her second visit that she could not continue tutoring Trevor. The reason? Karen implied that the teacher was being pressured to write falsehoods about Trevor and his home environment, and did not want to be torn between her job and the tutoring assignment. The teacher did not return. It is unclear whether an alternative teacher was provided; it is quite clear Karen was thoroughly disgusted with the school at this point.

According to Scott Berkey, Vermont Libertarian Party State Chair, "There is no way Ms. Maple's decision to keep her son out of the state educational system, or her refusal to submit bureaucratic forms to the government, can be construed as child abuse." According to Berkey, "The Maple case is an egregious example of vicious, bureaucratically-self-serving state interference in family life, and an unwarranted government intrusion in parental authority over children."

Later news reports indicated that Kupersmith was going to allow Karen out of jail if she turned over her children. She refused, stating: "I think it's crazy and unbelievable, and if they really cared about my kids, they wouldn't be hurting them so much." (WCAX TV3).

Karen's children went underground to avoid being placed into SRS custody.

Linda Prussen-Razzano is an advisory board member and frequent contributor to Rightgrrl and a columnist for the American Partisan.

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