Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Fathers' Rights Victory In Massachusetts - Views - ifeminists - Fathers' Rights Victory In Massachusetts


Dr. Henry M. Fassler has successfully contested a 1998 Massachusetts law that requires a non-custodial parent to have court certification as a non-batterer on a yearly basis before he (or she) is allowed access to their children's school records. The school system currently views all
non-custodial parents as guilty of battery until proven innocent. But all that is going to change.

The specifics of Fassler's case: he wanted to see the academic class list for his 17-year-old daughter Lindsay, who had asked him for help. No charge or complaint had ever been filed against Fassler; he is on good terms with his ex-wife and children.

When the school refused the class list, Fassler not only got angry, he also got active. Last October, he complained to the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, challenging the statute as discriminatory. On May 6, the DOE sent a letter to
Massachusetts' Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll, which warned that "the commonwealth and every school district in Massachusetts is in violation of federal law, and has been for years."

The letter explained, "non-custodial parents cannot be denied access to school records unless there is evidence those 'rights have been specifically revoked'." The government cannot stand between parent and child when no evidence of abuse is present.

Father's rights advocates had fought against the law since its passage. (Indeed, Fassler belongs to Fathers and Families, a leading voice in that battle.) Suddenly, however, with millions in federal funding at stake, Driscoll has indicated that a "new policy" will treat divorced parents more fairly.

This is another lesson from the Massachusetts struggle. Grassroots organizations and actions can prevail over generously tax-funded agencies, but it is crucial to "follow the money." The crusade against the 1998 statute won out only when Fassler called federal funding into question.

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