Explain why a presentation on homeschooling is appropriate for this conference. Child abuse occurs in the US at an alarming rate across populations. According to HHS’s Children’s Bureau 2015 Report on child maltreatment, “a nationally estimated 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect” in 2015. And “[f]or FFY 2015, there were a nationally reported 683,000 (rounded) victims of child abuse and neglect.” http://americanspcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2015-Child-Maltreatment.pdf Homeschooling and religious fundamentalism combined make for a potent cocktail that puts children at even greater risk.
Carmen: Homeschooled in Missouri from 1st-12th grade. Missouri is a no-contact, no-testing state. Only requirements were to maintain a record of schoolwork (which no one looked at), and to take certain subjects (which no one verified). Childhood experience: isolated, controlling, emotionally and physically abusive. Attended Patrick Henry College, founded by homeschooling parents for homeschooled students. Patriarchy: forbidden to choose my own husband. Now, a lawyer with expertise in homeschooling, child-protection, and family law.
“In short, the entire educational, legal, and child protective system, which was built on the presumption of mandatory school attendance, had no response for the new challenges posed by the homeschool exceptions that were grafted onto that system over the past three decades.” - My Note Review the history of homeschooling laws. - Homeschooling illegal in most states. - HSLDA founded in 1983. - Almost exclusively through state-level legislative victories, homeschooling was legalized in all 50 states by early 1990s. - A deregulation crisis that continues to this day: Iowa (deregulation in 2013), Pennsylvania (2014). Provide outline of current child-protection laws. Child protective services are created by statute in each state. As a government agency, they are empowered to do only what their authorizing statute tells them they may do. Those statutes by and large were written with the presumption that children would be in school, either public or private, and therefore seen 5 days/week by mandatory reporters. Trained mandatory reporters are the front line of defense in this structure. Homeschooled students, however, can be cut off from mandatory reporters very easily. And even when a report is made, it is very difficult for social services to interview a homeschooled student. CPS also has limited resources and assign its enforcement priorities accordingly. Important backdrop: James Madison famously said that if men were angels, no government would be necessary. But since they aren’t, a governmental system based on checks and balances is best, so that power can counteract power, and the natural vices of humankind work to keep the system safe. Those checks and balances do not exist when it comes to our child-protection system. Doctrine of constitutionally protected parental-rights. Remind audience: The existence of a requirement on the books does not ensure enforcement.
Per HHS’s Children’s Bureau 2015 Report: “For 2015, professionals made approximately three-fifths (63.4%) of reports alleging child abuse and neglect.” http://americanspcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2015-Child-Maltreatment.pdf
Twenty-five states do not require homeschooled students to ever take a standardized test. Almost half of the states that do require testing allow parents to avoid this requirement either by claiming a religious exemption or by operating as a pseudo private school. According to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, “[t]here are only 9 states that both require parents educating their children at home to do so under the homeschool statute with its assessment requirement and [also] have a process for identifying and helping students not making academic progress....” Eleven states never require parents to notify the school district of their intent to homeschool—meaning state authorities have no idea whether the child is truant or is receiving instruction at home. In fact, the state may not even know that the child exists. Forty-one states either do not have minimum teacher qualifications or provide options whereby parents can avoid any such requirement—meaning parents without a high school diploma can homeschool their child through grades the parent did not complete. Fourteen states have no subject matter requirements. Of the states that do, many undermine these requirements with religious exemptions that allow a parent to avoid any topic—such as science—that the parent finds antithetical to his or her religious beliefs.”
Why is the lack of a safety net especially dangerous for homeschool students? The homeschooling culture.
Reiterate: Types of abuse and neglect that can occur to any children, so it’s important to keep these in mind when concerned about any of the children in our lives. Homeschooled students face even more danger from these types of abuse and neglect.
Doing the work: Do the children talk about not doing school? Do they seem to spend an unusual amount of time working, doing chores, caring for younger siblings? Do they express frustration about not having enough time to get their homework done? Story: Student only doing work one day a week. Grade level: certainly homeschooling allows for flexibility, but flexibility does not mean ignoring educational-attainment metrics wholesale. Story: Child in the middle school and cannot read; high-school senior unable to do multiplication tables. Typical subjects. Laws in some states allow parents to simply never teach science. Sometimes students stop studying math when it becomes difficult for their parents to teach. Sometimes parents see no need for girls to continue to learn math, particularly algebra. Be especially watchful as students reach high school. Taking standardized tests or having a portfolio review is a good sign, but not an absolute indication that no education neglect is occurring. College admission - transcripts, FAFSA.
Story: Faith Pennington in Texas; working under the table as an adult. Reiterate: We live in a post-9/11 world where such identification documents have become crucial to basic life functions like employment and transportation. Again, think about the situation in practical steps. In order to obtain a driver’s license, what documents do you need? In order to get a job, what documents do you need?
Living in the Loopholes
Living in the Loopholes
Home Education and Abuse
Making the Legislation
Homeschooling laws were grafted onto pre-existing education laws.
Formed by parental-rights and religious-freedom lobbyists–not experts in
education, family, or child-protection law.
Legislatures assumed existent safety nets would be sufficient.
But to function, safety nets must be accessible.
In our legal system, parents have the strongest legal rights.
Barriers to the Safety Net
In most states there is:
No contact with mandatory reporters
No assurance that education is happening
No background checks for violence or sexual abuse
No requirement to notify anyone of a child’s existence
A Culture that Exacerbates Danger
Conferences and curriculum promote religious fundamentalism.
Advanced Training Institute
No Greater Joy
Ingrained fear of CPS
Intentional seclusion and distrust of authorities
Seeing the Loopholes
how can we identify abuse in homeschools?
Types of Abuse
Do the children do school work every or most week days?
Are they performing at, or within a few years of, grade level?
Can older children read? At an appropriate level?
Do they understand age-appropriate math concepts?
Are they aware of commonly known historical figures or events?
Do children study all typical subjects?
Have the children seen a doctor? Ever? Within the last year?
Do they receive appropriate medical treatment when ill?
Do they seem to struggle with treatable chronic conditions (asthma, etc)?
Do children express distress toward or fear of the medical field?
Parents may not acquire SSN, birth certificate, etc.
Identification documents may exist, but may be withheld by parents.
Transcripts may not be created, or they may be destroyed.
How does the child interact with food?
Do they eat unusual portion sizes?
Do they appear to be a reasonable weight?
Do parents scoff at food allergies?
Are parents either forbidding the child from becoming vegan/vegetarian, or forcing
veganism/vegetarianism/keto/paleo despite nutritional deficiencies?
Do children have access to hygiene products, showers?
Do children have reasonable hygiene habits?
How does the child describe corporal punishment?
What sorts of implements are used?
Is the victim older than 5? 10? 15?
How often does corporal punishment occur?
Does community leadership promote Ezzos, Dobson, Pearls?
Are restraints used–shackles, rope, etc.?
Look for typical signs of abuse.
Unexplained bruising, breaks sprains, etc.
Abusers may deny children shelter from the elements.
Step #1: Learn
Make sure homeschooled children know you value them.
Pay attention to home educators in your community
Are they insular?
What materials are popular?
Are people who don’t homeschool viewed with suspicion?
Step #2: Practical Actions
Be a friend
Can you provide opportunities to get out of the house? Field trips? Play dates?
Support and encourage their ambitions, dreams, goals, and gifts.
Be a resource
Can you loan books? Be a tutor?
Help them get their driver’s liscense, take the SAT, apply to college, etc.
Call the authorities.
Step #3: Change the status quo
Prioritize listening to alumni over home educators
Coalition for Responsible Home Education
Homeschooling’s Invisible Children
Be informed on your state’s legislation, or lack thereof
Are there exemptions?
Is there any oversight? How is it enforced? Is it enforced?
Stay up-to-date on new legislation
HSLDA and home educators are extremely well-motivated.
We all need to be invested in the education and well-being of our children.