Polygamous Sect Pulls Children From Schools

ByABC News
September 14, 2000, 8:43 AM

Sept. 14 -- Hundreds of members of a polygamous Mormon splinter group on the Utah-Arizona border are pulling their children out of the local public school system and severing contact with the outside world.

In Colorado City, Ariz., and neighboring Hildale, Utah, Rulon Jeffs, the aging leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told followers in July to home-school their children and to cut ties completely with non-members and former members.

Theres a mass exodus, Mike File, the county school superintendent overseeing Colorado City, told ABCNEWS.com. When classes began on Aug. 22, roughly 350 students enrolled in the school system, compared to 1,400 last year. Over half the teachers at Colorado City schools belong to the sect and did not return for work, File says. Turnout was so low at the towns junior high school, it had to be closed because of a lack of students. The remaining children were sent to another school.

A Very Educated Society

Colorado City mayor and church member Dan Barlow refused to be interviewed today by ABCNEWS.com. In an interview this summer with Associated Press, he said the decree issued in July was merely a suggestion that people take that responsibility for themselves.

He says he started home-schooling his children a year ago.

I just felt like I could do much better teaching them the things I know and give them some spiritual teaching as well, he said.

Arizonas regulations on home-schooling are among the most lax in the country, and File says he has no authority to monitor the students once their parents sign them out of the public school system. But Fine, who is not a church member, says he believes the groups children will continue to receive a good education while being home-schooled. Fine says the sects children are strong students, excelling at statewide standardized tests and routinely winning local spelling bees. Theyre a very educated society, he says.