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)