Breckinridge County Sheriff Deputy Todd Pate and Kentucky State Trooper Adam Hutchinson, acting upon an anonymous tip alleging poor living conditions visited a home in rural Kentucky belonging to Joe and Nicole Naugler.
The parents, Joe and Nicole have ten children including another on the way, and have chosen to live an “easier, more simple” life “off the grid” in a 280 square-foot wood framed, three-walled cabin. The couple decided that all they needed was a generator to supply their power and an old school outhouse for a bathroom. They grow their vegetables, hunt the animals on their land and cook over a wood stove.
The children are receiving a more nontraditional form of homeschooling called “unschooling”, which teaches them through experiences more than through traditional book learning, and allows them to focus more on subjects they find interesting.
It seems this anonymous tip came after Joe had a “run-in” with one of his neighbors. The report states that Joe is accused of threatening his neighbor by asking one of his children to “hand him the gun”, although no weapon was ever produced.
The “tip” also stated that the family was living in a tent, that Nicole had given birth in a tent, that they had no running water or septic, and that none of the children were enrolled in school, along with the allegation of Joe threatening his neighbor.
When the officers arrived on scene, Joe was away from his property with eight of his children. Nicole was home with the two eldest children, attempted to drive away from the scene, but was pulled over and had her children taken from her. She was then arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but she has stated that the arrest took place when she would not simply allow the officers to take her children.
The sheriff then ordered Joe to turn the other children over by 10 a.m., or be arrested on felony charges, for which he complied. He has since been charged with the misdemeanor crime of menacing, which only occurs when someone “intentionally places another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury”, in accordance with Kentucky state statute 308.050.
The couple’s children are now in the custody of Child Protective Services, split between four foster homes stretching four counties as child welfare agents continue to investigate the allegations of “unfit living conditions”.
It seems that the overall reactions to the actions taken by the state have been mixed. Pace Ellsworth, a friend of the family involved stated that the family was happy and just chose to live “outside the box” of typical modern living. Many of the comments on the family’s Facebook page have voiced their support for the family, including one such man who wrote: “It would not be my choice to live like that. But you never asked me for my opinion..lol..If your family is healthy and happy, then who am I to tell you to change. I applaud you and hope the best for your family.”
There are others though, that have cautioned that there is more to this story, than first meets the eye. One such Facebook comment was from someone who said they “used” to know the Nauglers and thought they were trouble. Another claimed to know the family and said that Joe and Nicole were “scary” and had banned them from coming to their house after their own children asked them to not come back. Many others claim the living conditions are indeed not fit for children and questioned their safety.
The couple waited impatiently on Monday for a hearing to determine whether they would get their ten children back or not, but according to the determination it won’t happen until the Cabinet For Health And Family Services completes their investigation. In part the statement reads:
“We have allowed CHFS to inspect our property and interview our children multiple times. After every visit they have confirmed, and confirmed again today that our children are happy, healthy and well cared for and that our property is sufficient for their needs. Despite that, the judge decided as a result of the deliberations in today’s hearing that our children will remain in CHFS care while they continue their investigation.”
As for the misdemeanor charges, they are slated to be addressed in court today.
The decisions of the Kentucky courts could have a big impact on the “back-to-basics” homeschooling crowd, as well as all those who are choosing to find a more simplified way of life in a modern world. Maybe they were born 150 years too late, but is that something we want our government deciding for us? I agree that minor children must be taken care of and not placed in imminent danger, but who exactly are we letting decide what is best for our children?