Occasionally, the media reports a case of child abuse or neglect, and attempts to link the abuse to a need for more regulation and oversight of homeschoolers. These articles are usually met with passionate arguments from both sides of the issue, talking past each other, often without ever addressing the roots of the problem.
To properly deal with this topic, one must stop reacting on emotion and opinion, and start asking the right questions:
- Is the freedom to home educate one’s child a Constitutionally guaranteed right?
- Should we regulate an entire segment of the American population in an attempt to pinpoint the problems of a small minority?
- Are any of the incidents reported directly related to homeschooling?
- If we begin to regulate home education in an attempt to thwart the possibility of abuse, are we willing to be consistent across the board with regulating other families that meet the demographics for the risk of child abuse?
First, the right of the parent to choose and direct their child’s education is a Constitutionally guaranteed right. The law states that parents are to provide their child an education, but it does not stipulate where that education is to take place or what methods are to be used. To regulate homeschoolers, one must rewrite the law to overturn this freedom and create federal bounds and mandates for how parents choose to nurture and teach their children.
Secondly, those enthusiastically supporting more regulation for homeschoolers are asking that the freedoms of over 2 million American citizens be reduced because of the criminal acts of a very few. The argument raised here is that if regulations save one child, it is worth the infringment of the rights of a few. But the problem is that regulating homeschoolers will not address the tragedy of child abuse, because…
The incidents reported are not directly related to homeschooling. A recent Dayton Daily News article attempts to make this connection, but they gloss over the fact that three nurses were assigned to that particular case, that the school district did not follow up on the family for over 6 years, and that the school district suffered no penalties for their ineptitude and neglect. Making the argument that child abuse cases like this would be prevented by regulating home education is patently false, intellectually dishonest, biased, and discriminatory.
Finally, the underlying premise boils down to statistics and risk factors.
- Most child abuse cases that result in fatalities occur before a child reaches compulsory school age. Why don’t reporters call for the mandatory supervision and oversight of all children under the age of 4?
- Other forms of child abuse and neglect must be addressed. One-third of American children are considered obese, which leaves them at risk for cariovascular disease, diabetes, and psychological trauma. Should we require that the parents of overweight children submit to regular investigation and oversight?
- Studies suggest that viewing television has a significant impact on child development, interfering with healthy relationships and the ability to focus on academics. Should states and Congress consider regulating the amount of television that parents allow their children to watch? Should it be illegal for a child to have a television in their rooms?
- Children whose parents are substance abusers are three times more likely to be abused or neglected than children from sober families. Should we now have regular follow-up visits for all parents who are convicted on drug or alcohol related charges?
The list could go on. The bottom line is that if we are seriously arguing for the regulation and oversight of families whose children are at risk, there are factors that are much more compelling than homeschooling that must be addressed. That is, if advocates of more regulation wish to be consistent and honest.