Wednesday, March 12, 2008

D.C. Homeschoolers Also Threatened

What is it with Departments of Education these days?
Don't they have enough to deal with in their own schools?

The Washington DC Homeschoolers had a jolt this past month with a proposal that was put out by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education

Dana over at Principled Discovery had a great blog post about it as did Home Education Magazine

In DC these knee-jerk regulations came on the heels of a tragic family incident. The thing to remember about abuse and neglect is that it isn't a homeschool issue - it's a social and sometimes even a mental health issue. These things can and do happen in families who choose other forms of education. Can we please all remember that? (repeat it a few times if you have to)

Sadly child abuse and neglect is a problem which occurs in all segments of society. It is not a homeschool issue; it is a societal issue. There are mechanisms already in place in most state statutes to deal with parents that do not take care of their children, no matter how those children are educated. 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. Thankfully, there are also laws which make it illegal to file a false complaint, and people who file purposeful false complaints should be prosecuted by the full extent of the law - even if they are school administrators! (are you listening CT?)

In some of the more prominent sensationalized news stories that we have seen regarding abuse and neglect in a homeschool family, the state's child protective agencies had already been involved with the family. In many cases, there is also psychotropic medication involved, so there are doctors prescribing medication involved as well. There are no doubt silent family members involved too. So let's not make homeschooling the thing to blame in those circumstances.

Legislating innocent and law abiding homeschooling families will not solve the problems of abuse and neglect, and truly if there are any families who are neglectful they may certainly still go undetected as they do in cases where children go to public and private school. Regulation based on the assumption that homeschooling "hides" a problem such as abuse is discriminatory.

It is ludicrous to suggest that laws requiring a certain number of days of school, or dictates certain materials be used, or mandates that certain curriculum be taught, or that requires testing, or that parents must have some diploma credential, or whatever else the educrats want to mandate, will prevent abuse in families. To suggest that meeting in a portfolio review once a year is going to give the school oversight in making sure a kid isn't abused is also ridiculous. Those laws not only won't prevent abuse, but they will make it burdensome for families who already follow the law.

The concern for "child safety" is just smoke and mirrors for "control". Tell me how they have all kinds of rules and regulations and oversight in public schools and kids still come to school who are routinely abused at home ... and some are even routinely abused at school! And yet when an incident happens in a homeschool family - everyone is so quick to point to the issue of home education as the culprit.

How about we talk about the unchecked abuse that goes on in public schools and make them accountable for that? The teacher to student humiliation, harassment, and yes bullying. Yeah - maybe it's not the norm - but it happens and largely goes on without consequence to the perpetrators, even when the parents and students complain about it.

In the words of Ann Lahrson-Fisher writing at the Home Education Magazine 01/26/04 issue, concerning child abuse,
"One message does not appear to penetrate official thinking in these cases. Child abusers are criminals. Criminals do not comply with laws that expose their crimes. Revising homeschooling laws to catch child abuse will result in child abusing criminals hiding elsewhere. Refocusing homeschooling laws on child abuse prevention will result in one thing only: a bureaucratic nightmare and the invasion of the privacy of the 99.9+% of homeschooling citizens who are not criminals."
In summary: The more we can distinguish neglect from academic freedom of choice, the better off we are.

Read more about the issue of abuse and neglect and homeschooling from NHELD

Thankfully what I am hearing is that what happened at the DC public hearing was that the turnout was so overwhelming that the proposal was essentially dropped.

(H/T Dana)


Irdial said...

For me the best way to think about these insane regulations is to go right to the 'last straw' scenario that you do not want to see, but understand, needs your action right now to prevent from coming to pass.

If the government said that you must bring your child to a centre to be sterilized, (for boys, castrated), would you comply?

Most parents would instantly say 'no'.

The fact of the matter is, you are not obliged to obey laws that infringe your rights, no matter what anyone says or thinks. Forcing your children to go to school or to follow a particular curriculum is a complete abuse of your rights, and your response should simply be 'no'.

If you say anything other than 'no' it is the same as saying 'yes' to the sterilization of your children.

The best reaction would be that you do not respond at all. Simply ignore all communications, requests for information, requests for contact, and act as if these monsters do not exist.

The 160,000+ home schoolers in California, all the home schoolers in DC and all over america; if they all did this, they would soon find out what the power of numbers is all about.

Back to the absurd idea of enforcing a curriculum; imagine if the state mandated that you must teach a certain style of religion to your children? One objects instantly, but in fact, why should they not do this? They seem to think that they have the right to mandate that you learn other things, so why not religion? Some people accept that the state should set out a curriculum for Home Schoolers, so why not let them set out everything? This is an unbreakable principle; the state has no right mandating a curriculum except in schools that it creates on behalf of the public. You, as a free person, have the right to not attend those schools and teach whatever you like in whatever way you like. Any acceptance that the state has a right to tell you what to teach in your own house, means that you are giving up the right to guide your child's growth and by extension, you are giving up your child to the state, and admitting that your child is the property of the state, and their ultimate responsibility, not yours.

It is completely wrong that the state should, in essence, come into your home and demand that you indoctrinate your children. This is completely separate from the fact that they cannot run the failure factories that they already have absolute control over, where, quite rightly, they control the curriculum, which you are (or at least should be) free to reject should that be your choice.

In the final analysis, everyone has to choose to be free. The power of the state is actually illusory, and the people behind the levers very dumb in most cases. Your rights as a parent are absolute, inviolable and not up for negotiation or dilution.

If you do not take this stance right now, your children WILL end up being taken to sterilization centres and there will be nothing you can do about it, because you will have set the precedent that ultimately your children belong to the state, because you refused to stand up and ignore the anti-home school regulations.

And of course, 'you' is used here in the collective. :)

After reading the actual proposals, they are indeed shocking:

"A parent or legal guardian shall agree to permit a representative of the OSSE to review the portfolio of educational materials, discuss the home schooling program, and observe instruction provided that all of the following requirements are met:"

Astonishing, insulting and wrongheaded....'effrontery' is the word that leaps to mind.

Its great that in the usa there are still people who will swarm the legislature so that they are forced to back down. What is astonishing is that these people sit down and come up with this nonsense in the first place. Rest assured, they will do so again and again.

Some may take issue with the idea of simply ignoring the legislation. Sadly in the UK where home schooling parents are not too bright, this becomes the only way to react and keep your liberty - so many parents are for regulation, monitoring and anything else the government wants that it is impossible to do anything else. If you try and speak to them about rights, they look at you with glazed eyes and blank expressions.

There are no hoards of outraged parents that are going to fight new regulations, and as we have seen with responses to the recent consultation on 'Elective Home Education' guidelines that were recently published, many parents, HOME SCHOOLING PARENTS as I assert, are FOR regulation and FOR the state being able to arbitrarily question you and your home schooling activities. All it takes is a single phone call from a disgruntled neighbor to get you investigated, and to force you to PROVE that you are educating your child 'sufficiently' (whatever that means). Yes, there are home schooling parents that think that is OK in the UK!

Be thankful that you have a strong home schooling community in the usa, where the parents are not sheeple (for the most part when it comes to their rights), and where you can still have a real influence on your local legislatures.

As home schooling continues to grow, there will not be a single state where it is not the norm, and much of the pressure will be off, especially as home schooled children enter politics on the local level.

You have it good!

Anonymous said...

There is a map here in CT that shows which towns are abusing authority as far a bullying parents, false complaints to DCF etc. by school admin. etc. So maybe we need to make one of the states that are doing the same. Maybe if enough people move out of those states and towns, then maybe they will leave the homeschoolers alone to teach their kids without the harassment and all the illegal stuff that has been done to these families. I guess the tax dollars that they would loose from people moving out will get them to listen, seeing I guess its all about the money and power instead of the actual kids. Beyond disgusted with the abuse of the laws.

paul maurice martin said...

I worked in the following public school districts for a total of 23 years:

The Rochester, Somersworth and Newfound Regional public schools in New Hampshire; and the Arlington Public Schools just outside DC.

In that time I recall, offhand, three teachers who made some use of shame and embarassment in classroom management. It's possible if I racked my brain I'd come out with a couple more. In all cases if fell extremely far from child abuse and was NOTHING compared to what I experienced as a child in Catholic school. (I do think I went to an exceptionally bad one, actually.)

Unrealistic, unfair, and every public school I've worked in was happy to have parents come in anytime. People can see for themselves.

In fact, you could read my current post for an example of the terrible things we do to kids in the schools...