Abusive parents murdered a child, so homeschoolers should pay. That’s apparently the thinking behind proposals to require homeschooled children have contact with the public school system at least once a year to ensure they aren’t being abused.
Wyandotte District Attorney Mark Dupree appeared before a legislative committee last week urging lawmakers to toughen home schooling regulations. Dupree prosecuted a father and stepmother for starving and killing 7-year-old son Adrian Jones. The duo homeschooled the Adrian.
Amanda Grosserode, a former Kansas state legislator and homeschooling mom, says the proposal basically makes homeschooling parents guilty until proven innocent.
“Is that not a supreme violation of parental rights?” she says. “That draws in all families who have babies up to school age children. Should they be overseen to make sure they aren’t abusing their children?”
Adrian’s grandmother, Judy Conway, is also advocating for stricter homeschool regulations. She told a House committee that because Adrian was homeschooled, no one saw him to know he was being abused.
That’s not true, however. The Kansas Department of Children and Families and the Missouri Children’s Division both had contact with the Jones family. When he was 5, Adrian told a social worker his father would kick him so hard in the back of his head that a little bone would come out. Missouri released more than 400 pages of documents related to Adrian’s life. At one point, a county juvenile officer ordered more services for the family, but then the Joneses moved to Kansas. Kansas social service officials had contact with the family at least once in 2012, however, the state’s records have not been released.
The state failed Adrian.
“They knew the child was being abused and they did not remove this child,” Grosserode says. “It’s not the fault of homeschooling that the state failed in its obligation to this child in his abusive home.”
Parents must register their home schools with the state of Kansas, but that’s about the extent of current regulations. There are some safety nets in place, however. Anyone can report suspected child abuse anonymously. Conway, Adrian’s grandmother, could have made reports to authorities. People can also turn in someone they suspect isn’t educating their children.
“They can say, these kids aren’t being educated,” Grosserode says. “The process is already there.”
Grosserode says the suggestion that home schoolers must have some sort of OK by a public school district is problematic.
“The history of home schooling has demonstrated that local school districts have harassed home school families,” Grosserode says. “The history of early home schooling is filled with parents being arrested on truancy charges. History has shown that this is the way public schools fight home schoolers.”
Dupree suggested home schooled students should be required to be tested annually by public school districts. That poses a problem for many homeschooling families, because most public school testing is based on Common Core.
“Homeschoolers do not follow those standards or sequence of Common Core,” she says. “The learning is the key–not how they’re going to do on a test that is based on someone’s criteria that is not ours.”
The proof that homeschooling works, Grosserode says, is in the pudding.
“Studies have shown that homeschool students do great. They do great in academics, they do great in life, and they become great citizens. To assume that we need regulation is assuming that those things aren’t true,” she says.
Eric Teetsel, President of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, says homeschool parents do a great job of raising heathy, productive, contributing members of society.
“Our laws must always honor the rights and responsibilities of parents to raise their children according to their deeply held beliefs and values,” Teetsel says. “Parents who choose to homeschool their children do so out of love with the child’s best interests in mind.”