For Immediate Release: Homeschooling should not be used to avoid truancy charges or hide maltreatment
Canton, Ma., 03/04/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging lawmakers to support Georgia House Bill 530, introduced last week by Reps. Bill Hitchens, Jon Burns, Wesley Cantrell, and Ron Stephens. HB 530 would change the homeschool notice process to ensure that school districts, and not only the Georgia Department of Education, receive homeschooling parents’ notice of intent. HB 530 would also create a screening system that would allow school districts to initiate a DFCS investigation when parents begin homeschooling after long term truancy or school discipline problems.
“HB 530 is an important first step toward better protecting homeschooled children,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE.
“Screening systems like those proposed in HB 530 allow school districts and child welfare officials to use their resources effectively without putting responsible homeschooling families through unnecessary scrutiny,” said Coleman. “Lawmakers across the country have become more aware of the role homeschooling can play in hiding child abuse,” added Coleman. “We encourage lawmakers to ensure that HB 530 creates a screening system focused not only on red flags indicating educational neglect but also on red flags indicating possible child abuse.” As currently written, HB 530 focuses on students with a concerning history of absenteeism, and not on students with a concerning history past child abuse reports.
Coleman also points to the need to be specific about what constitutes a red flag. “We want to ensure that the bill focuses on valid warning signs and not on all conflict with the school district,” added Coleman. “Simple disagreement with the school district is not a red flag.”
HB 530 was motivated in part by the deaths of Elwyn and Mary Crocker, two Georgia children whose parents previously removed them from school to homeschool them. The Crocker children had been the subject of prior child abuse and neglect reports, but there was no way for the school district to flag the family when the children were withdrawn.
“A growing body of research suggests that homeschooling offers abusive and negligent parents a way to isolate, neglect, and mistreat children without detection,” said Coleman. In 2014, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin found that 47% of the school-age child torture victims she studied were removed from school to be homeschooled; in 2018, a state official in Connecticut found that 36% of children removed from school to be homeschooled lived in families that were subject to at least one prior child abuse or neglect report.
In 2013, the body of 10-year-old Emani Moss was discovered in a trash can outside her family’s home in Smyrna, Georgia. Emani’s father and stepmother withdrew her from school to homeschool her after a teacher made a report of abuse; her stepmother was already on probation after pleading guilty to child cruelty charges several years earlier. “Emani’s parents used homeschooling to isolate her; they confined her to their home, prevented her from having contact with relatives or anyone else, and starved her to death,” said Coleman. “A screening process could have raised a red flag and prevented Emani’s parents from homeschooling her, ensuring that she would have had access to mandatory reporters who had already proven themselves willing to report their concerns.”
“Responsible homeschooling parents have nothing to fear from a screening process, while children at risk of abuse or neglect have a lot to gain,” said Coleman. “We urge Georgia lawmakers to support HB 530, as well as additional steps to protect homeschooled children.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.