A NYC judge pulls custody of a child from a mom for refusing to wear a mask?

In a story that's provoking outrage across parts of the conservative internet, a New York City judge has ordered a child removed from the custody of her mother over what the mother says is her refusal to wear a mask on a city street in broad daylight in front of her daughter's tony private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

According to GatewayPundit:

It was a normal day for Dr. Micheline Epstein, a family physician, when she went to drop her daughter off at the Birch Wathen Lenox School on the Upper East Side last week — until her entire life was turned upside down in an instant.

The tearful mother explained in a phone call that her daughter was already inside the building and wearing a mask when the school nurse and school security attempted to force Dr. Epstein to wear a mask on the public street in front of the building where drop off takes place, Dr. Epstein refused.

"No one got physical or anything, she just refused to wear the mask. They were outside on the public sidewalk," Dr. Epstein's boyfriend Jeff Guttenplan explained, adding that the daughter was wearing a mask because they are required to go inside.

The mother explained that the school nurse had came out and was aggressively demanding that she put on a mask, but she was already leaving and did not accept it. "The next thing I know, my daughter is taken away from me," she cried.

Epstein is involved in a contentious divorce over child custody with her ex-husband, and apparently, the school sent a note to the mom not to drop off the kid anymore, given her failure to wear a mask, the ex got a copy of the note, and he took it to the judge, who made his ruling to yank custody and give it all to the ex.

If it's true, it's an outrageous abuse of governmental power over a highly questionable matter, given that the supposed transgression happened in open air on a public sidewalk.  The worst that should have happened would have been that a cop cite her for failure to wear a mask on New York City streets, where mask-wearing is mandatory.  They've instead declared her an unfit mother?  And harmed her child by taking her away from her mom?  And during supervised visits, they want her to wear a mask in her own home? 

It's outrageous if it's true.

Number one, taking children away from their parents upsets the parents, sure, but it utterly traumatizes the children.

Richard Wexler, who's an expert on state abuse of children by state judges and child protective services agencies who take away children all too eagerly on flimsy evidence, knows that these things happen, and happen too often.  The state loves to get its hands on people's kids and take them away for any reason whatsoever, and lots of lawsuit payouts have happened based on this kind of abuse.  Wexler's nonprofit, the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, has tremendous resources on the prevalence of these state abuses of power.  One of the things Wexler has found, and I am recounting an old conversation I had with him a few years ago, is that even children in dysfunctional homes, beset by alcoholism, drugs, and prostitution, do better in such lousy homes than they do in foster care.  Stuffing them in foster care is a recipe for future jail time, given the huge number of convicts in prison who did their first time in foster care.

In this case, the custody went to the dad, who's embroiled in a contentious divorce with the mother, so there was no foster care; foster care is just something creepy in the background.  But the child is undoubtedly traumatized, as any kid would be if suddenly told she would never see her mother.  It would be as if the mother were dead and the kid would have no answers.

This case is told only from the perspective of the mother and her boyfriend, Jeff Guttenplan, who might be the person on this sparse LinkedIn account, listing him as the vice president of sales at Eco Supreme in New York, a company that makes bio-degradable materials at a factory in China.

Unfortunately, in divorce proceedings, one should proceed with caution.  Divorce cases gone to court, according to those who know the matter, are commonly said to be good people on their worst behavior, which is the opposite of criminal cases, which is bad people on their best behavior.  So it's hard to say if this is what's really going on.

Some red flags to me are that the supposedly wicked vindictive father is not named at all in the story or any of them that printed this.  Why isn't he named?  In the GatewayPundit story, Epstein encouraged everyone to email the judge and the school and doxxed the judge by printing his email, in order to ensure he got a load of angry emails, but she didn't name the husband, the source of the problem, which, given her desire to doxx, is curious.  Something is being kept from us.

As for the school, yes, it's a tony private school on the Upper East Side of New York, which costs about $48,000 a year to attend, plus fees, and boasts of alums such as Edwin Schlossberg and Barbara Walters.  It's considered a competitor to the Dalton School, which is that place Bari Weiss wrote about, famous for its status-obsessed parents and their forced bow to wokeness, which bothers them.  Weiss's piece was published earlier this month in City Journal, "The Miseducation of America's Elites." The Birch Wathen Lenox school seems to have blocked access to its site except for those with passwords, so it's hard to tell much about the place.

As for the judge, Matthew F. Cooper, he seems reputable. A Yeshiva grad, practiced law for a while on issues defending workers who didn't get their union benefit plan offerings, or whose employers didn't give them, and who now works divorce cases as a judge for the courts, been doing so since 2000, and has no controversies to his name.  Doesn't seem like a flaming left-winger with a yen for extending government power and control, but perhaps anything is possible.  Right now, I see no evidence.  He does seem to teach a course for other people in the legal profession about how to spot mentally ill people in the courtroom.  Epstein, in her fundraising note, says the judge called her "crazy," which is interesting.

As for the really important thing about Cooper, which is his ruling and the legal reasoning behind it, this list of his recent cases does not include the Epstein case.  Perhaps this has been going on a long time, so it's not a recent case; perhaps the listing is not updated; or perhaps things are not what Epstein says they are, or maybe she has more than one name.  There are many possibilities.  Some may be quite innocent, but for now, we don't know what the judge said to explain why he took away custody from the mom and that's important.  It's a big hole in the story.

Lastly, there's Epstein herself and some unexplained things about her behavior. 

She's a doctor, and she refuses to put on a mask?  This is puzzling.  Doctors live in masks; it shouldn't be a big problem for them.  And why would a doctor, who presumably sees COVID patients at her workplace, or who could easily be exposed to them, and who could easily bring COVID into her home and infect her daughter, be resistant to wearing a mask at home?  Many medical personnel actually do that.

Another thing is the nature of her school, which, if it's anything like Dalton as described by Bari, is Karen Central.  Good New Yorkers know that you avoid trouble, you don't get involved, getting involved is total trouble (just ask Central Park Karen about that), you put on the damn mask not because it's right or wrong, but to avoid problems and continue on your merry way because you've got things to do.  A normal person would put on the damn mask if, for nothing else, then to avoid the kinds of pointless, time-wasting problems not putting on a mask could and would bring.  She didn't know her child's school was that kind of place, and she was status-oriented enough to send the kid to that place?  Hard to understand — seems to be a judgment problem on her part.

Here's another thing that doesn't add up.  She bills herself as a single mom working three jobs to put her kid through this $47,000-a-year private, status-oriented school for the Upper East Side regulars.  She doesn't seem the type.  If she's the same person as this doctor listed here in the low-status Bronx, she went to a matchbox school with a checkered history in the Caribbean, has mixed ratings from her patients, and says she has to work three jobs?  Hard to understand what's going on here; she doesn't fit the profile of the kind of person who'd send her six-year-old to a tony private school to get a wokester education for the status of it all.  Maybe the husband has the cash.  But if she is working three jobs, how does she have time to take care of the kid? 

Maybe everything is as she says it is, and New York is an evil place that would yank a child from her mother at the drop of a mask.

But there are a lot of caveats, a lot of unanswered questions.  It might explain why this story hasn't hit the mainstream press; there are too many questions here to feel confident that this is what is going on at this point.  More information is needed before it's time for any outrage.

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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