Bulletin #31 Abuse and Neglect 04/09/04
Did you know? Every state has abuse and neglect statutes, however, targeting homeschoolers for additional legislation due to perceptions of a potential link between homeschooling and abuse and neglect may be discriminatory.
Some people have expressed concern over a possible link between homeschooling families and educational neglect or abuse. While the media has shown a few cases nationwide of children that faced harm in a homeschool family - there have been many more cases that are reported of kids from families that do not homeschool. Sadly, child abuse and educational neglect is a problem that occurs in all segments of society. It is not a homeschool issue; it is a societal issue. There are mechanisms already in place in state statutes to deal with parents that do not take care of their children. If there is a reasonable articulable suspicion that neglect exists, the proper authorities may seek a warrant based on a probable cause using already established constitutional and statutory procedures. Imposing additional legislation on innocent and law abiding homeschooling families will not solve the problems of abuse and neglect. If there are truly any families who are neglectful or abusive, whether those families educate their children in public, private, or homeschool, the possibility remains that in a free society protected by constitutional principles there will always be a small percentage of neglect cases that may go undetected.
In any discussion about homeschooling and neglect, parents must always be sure to emphasize that there is a crucial distinction between homeschooling, which is an legally acceptable educational choice; and abuse and neglect, which is a criminally sanctionable deviation from normal behavior among families across the social strata no matter what educational choice they made. Homeschooling is a legal issue that is completely separate from abuse and neglect. How you decide to educate your children has nothing to do with how you conduct yourself in society. Abuse, child neglect, stealing, drug use, reckless driving and the like, have little to do with how children are educated and, unfortunately, can occur in families whose children are educated in public school, private school, or school at home.
Every state has abuse and neglect statutes. In
Part of the problem is that there are many myths surrounding homeschooling, some of which the media perpetuates. One of the more prevalent ones is that kids are isolated, and that "at home moms" who educate their children are isolated. In the recent cases reported in the media, surely the women who murdered their children had contact with their husbands, and other family, as well as their community. Someone must have been aware of warning signs. A person doesn't just wake up one day and murder their children. An unstable parent is an unstable parent, and could just as well do their children harm while they are home from public or private school.
Clearly with the Smith, Yate's and Laney cases, there were
issues of mental instability of the parent who perpetrated the crime. This is
not a homeschool issue, and it would appear that these children's lives might
have been saved had the families, doctors and the community in which these
women lived intervened. Mandating that these women have a college diploma, do
portfolio reviews, test or vaccinate their children, would not have prevented
these children's deaths. The
It is unfortunate that the media, in its quest to sell papers or air-time, does not tell the entire story, and we must be ever vigilant to that problem. CBS earlier this year did a story about "The Dark Side of Homeschooling." It was a totally irresponsible piece of reporting, and it was most likely constructed to get ratings. CBS had many complaints about it and lost sponsorship too, when people directed their outrage to the company. Even members of Congress wrote to express their disapproval of this kind of reporting.
With that being said, the questions that some people have raised are: What are the financial incentives for promoting a perception that "more regulation" of homeschoolers is needed? Who might be waiting to provide and to benefit financially and politically from this oversight? Who gets control and power when homeschoolers are regulated? Who are the "stakeholders" who might see homeschooling as threat and therefore need to be kept under close scrutiny and accountability? Perhaps the answer may come from corporate education management companies, unions such as the NEA, testing companies, education administrators, government agencies and social engineers, as well as other associated entities.
In summary: The more we can distinguish neglect from academic freedom of choice, the better off we are.
Articles which are worth reading and perhaps sharing with your legislators:
Michelle Malkin - Homeschoolers vs. Big Brother
Child Abuse: A Response to Recent Media Reports
Eye on CBS - Expose or Power Play?
Public School Abuses documented
Some articles on this issue where anti-homeschool slant may be apparent:
Pastor's statements regarding the NJ case
In the New York Times -
Starving Children in Plain Sight (archived) October 31, 2003
Make Home Schooling Safe for Children (archived) November 15, 2003
New Jersey Failed Basic Checks as Four Boys Starved, a
Report Finds (archived) February 13, 2004
Mom Believed God ordered killings – Daily News – 04/04/2003
Acquittal of Deanna Laney
Comparison of Yates and Laney case
Attorney Deborah Stevenson - Executive Director of National Home Education Legal Defense. –
Judy Aron - Director of Research, NHELD – firstname.lastname@example.org