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SYRACUSE HERALD-JOURNAL, OCT. 20, 1970
School Dispute parts family
by Richard G. Case
Six children of a Mexico family have been removed to foster homes by court order because their mother refuses to allow them to attend classes in the Mexico school district of Oswego County.
Mrs. Gerald Gracey, who operates a cider mill with her husband in Mexico, said the children---five girls and one boy---were taken from her home yesterday by Family Court order.
The mother said she has kept the youngesters from classes since the beginning of the new school year because she objects to certain information being given the children about sex.
"That's my job," Mrs. Gracey said in a telephone interview today.
She said she has been running "my own one-room school house here" since last month. "And the children have been doing very well."
Elvin Pierce, district principal denied that the Mexico schools are teaching what Mrs. Gracey referred to as "sex education."
"We do not teach sex education," he said. "All we are doing is following state mandates in health education."
The principal said court action was taken as a "last resort" which he "deeply regretted."
Pierce said Oswego County Family Court Judge Donald Comstock warned the Graceys last Tuesday that the children had to be in school by noon last Friday or face removal from the home so they could attend classes.
He said the school was willing to allow the Gracey children to be absent from certain classes "which might be contrary to their religious teachings." The family is Roman Catholic.
"We tried to negotiate but failed," Pierce said. "I had no choice under state law but to report the alleged illegal absence to Family Court."
Mrs. Gracey said the children---ages 7 to 15---were "very upset" when they were taken by two sheriff's deputies and two women attendants yesterday.
She said she was particularly concerned because the youngsters appear to have been separated in three foster homes in the Mexico area.
Mother separated from her children
She Defied Order on Schooling. Mexico--A mother who has been teaching her children at home rather than have them exposed to sex education and evolution in the public schools, said yesterday six of her nine children were taken from her on Monday by Family Court order in Mexico. She said the children were given to three different families and she has been denied permission even to see them.
Mrs. Gerald Gracey said Family Court officials in Mexico called her yesterday afternoon to tell her where her children, ages 7 to 15 years were, but that she was told she couldn't see them. She said three of her oldest girls, Susan, Amy and Patricia, were staying with a family in Fair Haven, two other daughters were staying in West Monroe and a 10-year-old son was in Parish.
She said she asked for the phone numbers of the homes, but was told she couldn't have them. She was given the addresses though, but was told to call back in a week or so and she might be able to see her children, though not before.
Mrs. Gracey, who is Roman Catholic, has kept her children out of school since the beginning of the school year because she objects to their being taught sex. Family Court Judge Donald Comstock said "I have an obligation under the law to see that they get an education."
Two sheriff's deputies and two women attendants arrived at the Gracey home Monday armed with the judge's court order and took the children away. It wasn't until after 3 p.m. yesterday that Mrs. Gracey was called and told where her children were.
Judge Comstock acted after the District Principal of Mexico schools, Elvin Pierce, reported that the children hadn't been in school. Pierce said he deeply regretted that the court action had to be taken. "It was a last resort," he said.
He noted that the school district has been willing to allow the Gracey children to be absent from certain classes, "which might be contrary in their religious teachings."
"We tried to negotiate but failed. I had no choice under state law but to report the alleged illegal absence to family court," he said.
Mrs. Gracey said, "I've been running my own one-room school house here...and the children have been doing very well."
Pierce said that in some cases children can be taught at home if the teacher meets certain certifications of the state. He said he asked Mrs. Gracey if she were a certified teacher, and that she answered no. Mrs. Gracey confirmed that yesterday, and said she hadn't been to college at all. She stated she knew she had a right to determine that her "kids" should be taught correctly and that what they were learning was wrong and against their religion.
She affirmed her right to keep the children out of school and teach them herself.
She said she objected particularly to her seven-year-old girl being shown a film in school of an animal "being born" and being told, "your brother was only an egg when he was born."
Pierce denied teaching sex education. "We do not teach sex education. All we are doing is following state mandates in health education," he said.
Mrs. Gracey said, "It's not just certain classes. It's everything about the atmosphere. It all gets back to them."
She said one daughter hadn't gone to health classes, but that other students told her about where babies came from. Another daughter had nightmare every night last year.
Pierce said whether or not Mrs. Gracey was qualified to teach was up to the district superintendent, but he didn't know if the superintendent had made any inquires about it. He said certification was defined by the State Commissioner of Education.
Judge Comstock, who said the children were polite and very intelligent, said the Graceys had not taken advantage of his instructions to get a lawyer. "I had no alternative," he said.
He added that the separation was not permanent and that the youngsters could be returned home the minute the court is informed they will be allowed to got to school.
Mrs. Gracey said yesterday she would not agree to that. She said she was looking for an attorney to help her fight to get her children back.
Syracuse, NY., Wednesday, October 21, 1970 Vol. 94, No 28,071
Family fights split
The Gerald Graceys of Mexico are to meet with lawyers tomorrow in an effort to have their children returned home. Six of the nine children were taken from their home in Oswego County Monday because the parents refused to send the children to school.
Elvin Pierce, district principal of schools, said the judge had warned the Graceys last Tuesday the children had to be in school by noon on Friday or face removal from the home so they could attend classes.
Welfare Department personnel and two sheriff's men went for the children at 2 p.m. Monday, October 19.
Wed., Oct. 21, 1970 The Spokesman Review p 19
Judge Rules 6 Children Must Leave
Judge Donald Comstock said Tuesday that Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Gracey had refused to return their children to school on a voluntary basis, adding: "I have an obligation under the law to see that they get an education."
Two sheriff's deputies accompanied by two women attendants arrived at the Gracey home with the court order Monday and took the children, she said.
"What bothers me is that I don't know exactly where they are now or how long they are going to be gone," she said of her children whose ages range from 7 to 15.
Mrs. Gracey said she particularly objected to her 7-year-old daughter being shown a film of "an animal being born" and being "your brother was only an egg when he was born."
Mrs. Gracey, a Roman Catholic, said she had been "running my own one-room school house here...and the children have been doing very well."
Elvin Pierce, district principal, said "We do not teach sex education. All we are doing is following state mandates in health education."
He said the school had been willing to allow the Gracey children to be absent from certain classes, "which might be contrary to their religious teachings."
Judge Comstock said the separation was not permanent. He said they will be allowed to return home as soon as the court is informed they will be allowed to attend school.
The Palladium Times
OSWEGO--FULTON, N.Y., WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 21, 1970
VOL. 47--NO. 248
Children Kept Out of School Are Placed in Foster Homes
MEXICO--In what may be the first court test of the state-mandated Health Education curriculum, six children of a local family were taken from their Academy St. Rd. (County Route 16) home Monday by the Sheriff's Department on an order from Family Court Judge Donald K. Comstock and placed in foster homes because their parents had kept them home from school this Fall.
The teaching of sex education, a part of the health education course outlined by the State Education Department, is the main point of contention voiced by Gerald and Hilda Cecile Gracey, who operate a cider mill just north of this Oswego County village to raise funds for future education of their children.
"When they say health, they mean sex," Mrs. Gracey told reporters yesterday from her second-floor home over the cider mill.
Her husband quickly brought forth a document to support their action. It was a typewritten page purported to be quotes from articles of the Second Vatican Council held by Roman Catholic bishops.
"The family...holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring," the paper read.
It continued, the right to educate was "inalienable, because inseparably joined to strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of society and of the state..."
Taken were five daughters and a son--Kathleen, 7, Second Grade; Jacqueline, 8 Third Grade; Gerald, 10, Fifth Grade; Susan 12, Seventh Grace; Amy, 14, Ninth Grade (freshman year); Patricia, 16, in 11th (junior year) Grade. The three older girls were placed in a Fair Haven foster home and were registered yesterday in a Red Creek Central School while Gerald was in a foster home in Parish and Jacqueline and Kathleen were in the West Monroe area and attending public schools in those sections.
At home is their 17-year-old daughter Bonnie, a talented artist (she showed reporters examples of her ability with both paints and free-hand drawings). She said she would like to become a nun in the Dominican Order.
Also busily playing about the home were their two-year-old son James, and his brother, Matthew, 4. The younger boys did not show much evidence of missing their older brother and sisters but quietly indicated loneliness with their absence. Bonnie had just finished helping her mother bake six pies which could be seen on the kitchen working shelf. On hand also was a large turkey and other ingredients for an early Thanksgiving feast to celebrate a hoped for family reunion.
On the other side of the room were six school desks which the children had used while continuing their studies under the strict attention of their mother, who has a high school education. She is a native of Copenhagen in Lewis County. The father is a native of Black River, Jefferson County.
Everyone here--the school, church and community leaders--agree the children have been brought up to be respectful.
SYRACUSE HERALD-JOURNAL, Oct. 21, 1970
Serene in their distress
by Connie Schreiber
Seventeen-year old Bonnie Grace was gently rocking her baby brother in a lawn swing, catching the warm rays of the late afternoon sun.
She seemed older than a teenager. She quietly played with the baby in the bucolic setting of her parent's Mexico home, north of Syracuse. She wore a maroon-colored ankle length skirt instead of bell-bottoms or a mini-skirt like most teens.
Bonnie escorted a photographer and me into the house where we were greeted cordially by Gerald Gracey. His wife, wearing a long skirt like her daughters, continued a telephone conversation.
In a completely unsophisticated, friendly, and trusting manner, Gracey and his eldest daughter pointed out details in scores of magazines, pictures of saints, framed religious photographs, icons and statues that lines newly wood-paneled living room walls and an altar-like table.
In the center of the table was a burning candle, flanked by several statues, including the Blessed Virgin Mary and Our Lady of Fatima. In the opposite corner of the room was a nearly-life-size statue of a saint.
Gracey's clear blue eyes sparkled as he proudly gave his daughter Bonnie credit for drawing a large picture of Mary that was over the kitchen area.
Gracey was wearing a shirt with "Alcon" printed on it. This is the factory where he works at night as a master diesel mechanic.
"With a family of nine you have to work a lot," he said, grinning at two-year-old James Levi, who was dressed in a blue Flintstones cartoon sweatshirt.
Only the day before welfare department personnel and sheriffs had come into the same room and taken six of the nine couple's children away.
An Oswego Family Court order took the children and placed them in area foster homes because the Graceys had refused to send their children to the public school.
"We were fighting for our rights as parents," Mrs. Gracey said calmly as she concluded her telephone conversation.
The Graceys say they don't like what is being taught in the schools--principally, sex education.
So they kept their children home: Patricia Anne, 15; Amy Bernadette, 14; Susan Christine, 11; Gerald Jr., 10; Jacqueline Betty, 8 and Kathleen Jean, 7. Bonnie did not return to school but does not have to, according to state laws. The two other children are Matthew James, 4, and James, not of school age.
Bonnie, who said she wants to be a cloistered nun, said she didn't want to go back to Mexico High School where she would have been a senior. School officials said she had A grads and would have been a sure Regents scholarship winner.
"It was the things the kids were doing," Bonnie explained.
" It was very tempting and I would rather stay home and preserve my purity," she said. "And at home I can take more courses than at school."
Would she miss her large family if she were in the convent?
"I'd rather be a sister," she said smiling. "You have a bigger family when you're a sister."
Mrs. Gracey said the youngest girl had nightmares "nearly every night" because the children picked on her at school.
"The kids would yank at her medal and the teacher just had no control," she explained as she gave James a peck on the cheek.
"We believe that how our children are taught is our business, as far as sex education is concerned. We don't object to public education as far as reading and math and what-not go."
"We want them to go to public schools because we pay taxes, but we would like the teachers to stick to the facts," Gracey said.
Gracey is a Watertown native who works his farm, an apple orchard and cider mill, besides his night job.
Elvin Pierce, district principal for Mexico schools, said the school had no sex education courses. "We avoid the issue because we don't feel we or the community are ready at this point."
I complimented Mrs. Gracey on her six freshly baked pies on the countertop next to the new copper-colored refrigerator.
She quickly explained Bonnie had baked the pies and added that her daughter also sews her own clothes.
"I'm stupid to teach my children this way, aren't I?" she asked with what sounded like a bitter tone in her voice.
"That's an out-and-out lie," she said when she was told Pierce insisted the school had no sex education program. She said parents were told at a meeting sex education was mandatory.
"Why is your family so devout?" I asked.
"We love each other," Mrs. Gracey replied, looking up at her husband. "God has always granted us graces and we've always thank God for what he had done for us."
The Graceys feel the children can learn better at home. Six old-fashioned school desks are set up beneath a picture window in the living room
The photographer was showing his equipment to Gracey outdoors and I came back inside. I asked Mrs. Gracey why a large candle was lighted on the dining room table.
For the first time during our interview, tears rushed to her eyes.
"I had to do something when the children were taken away," she replied and quickly turned around, apparently embarrassed by the show of emotion. She began looking through a file of papers. For the first time, she didn't speak freely.