Homeschooling: Can It Hide Abuse?

People leave gifts at a Perris, Calif., home where authorities say a couple abused and tortured their 13 children.
People leave gifts at a Perris, Calif., home where authorities say a couple abused and tortured their 13 children.
—Damian Dovarganes/AP
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A severe case of child abuse and torture is bringing renewed attention to the mostly hands-off approach states take with home schooling. Parents in Perris, Calif., have been charged with multiple counts of abuse and torture of their 13 children, who were reportedly being home-schooled. Although there is no evidence that abuse is widespread among the nation's home-schooling community of 1.7 million students, advocates from the Center for Responsible Home Education say lack of regulation makes home schooling attractive to neglectful and abusive parents. Rachel Coleman, the director of the center, talked with Education Week's Arianna Prothero about the issue.

Are California's homeschooling laws loose compared with other states'?

Fifteen states require a parent to turn in some sort of notice saying they're home schooling but that's all. No assessment, no one is checking up on those kids, no contact. Eleven states don't even require that—you don't have to tell anyone if you're home schooling. Texas is one of those states, where the family previously lived. In the remaining 24 states, there is some form of assessment requirement, but this is really variable because a number of states require an assessment but don't require parents to turn it in or even show proof that they did the assessment.

How common is abuse among home-schooling families?

We can't know that abuse is more common for home schoolers overall; it may not be. But we do know when abuse occurs in a home-school situation, there are fewer safeguards to catch it. It's less likely to be identified and less likely to be stopped.

Is there evidence that a large share of home-schooling parents homeschool their children to hide abuse?

There are no records kept on this. Child-protective services don't keep a record of whether a child attends school, is home-schooled, or attends private schools. It's extremely difficult to quantify. We have 381 cases in our database—most are from 2000 to present. And these are severe and fatal abuse cases. Home schooling is clearly overrepresented in severe and fatal cases of abuse.

Vol. 37, Issue 19, Page 5

Published in Print: February 7, 2018, as Homeschooling: Can It Hide Abuse?
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