Judge Orders Parents to Learn English

A Tennessee judge is under fire from some civil libertarians, and now a higher court must decide whether a parental language requirement is an issue of civil rights (search) or child welfare.

“He can no more order people to learn English (search) or lose their children than I can order you to learn Spanish (search),” said Jerry Gonzalez, a civil rights attorney. “The First Amendment has clearly been interpreted to mean that we can all communicate with our children in whatever form we want to.”

Gonzalez is handling the appeal of a mother accused of neglecting her 11-year-old daughter. In October, Judge Barry Tatum ordered the woman, who speaks a Mexican dialect called Mixteco, to learn English.

One expert in constitutional law argues that judges can make parents change their ways, even if they are not illegal, if it is in the best interest of the children.

“You can be an unfit parent even though your conduct is absolutely completely legal,” said Michael Broyde, a professor at Emory University.

Click on the video box above for a complete report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.