For Immediate Release: Putting homeschool families in annual contact with district officials benefits homeschooled children and promotes healthy district-family relations
Canton, Ma., 02/27/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, supports Iowa Senate File 224, a bill that would require parents homeschooling under the independent private instruction option to notify the local superintendent of their intent to homeschool by September 1st each school year. “Currently, Iowa does not keep any list of students that are homeschooled,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “Knowing who is and is not homeschooling cuts through confusion for parents and truancy officers alike.”
“We also appreciate that this bill would require the annual notice to be delivered in person,” Coleman said. S.F. 224 would require “the child, and the parent, guardian, or legal custodian who intends to place the child under independent private instruction for the school year … to meet in person with the superintendent of the school district in which the child resides in order to provide notice of such intent.” Coleman notes that this provision was likely added to prevent abusive parents from taking advantage of the statute to hide maltreatment.
“When abused child is homeschooled, that child is often severely isolated,” Coleman said. “Getting these children in the presence of mandatory reporters can offer an opportunity for someone to notice that something is wrong when there is no one else to see.”
In recent years, Iowa has been rocked by a series of high-profile teenage child abuse cases. 16-year-old Natalie Finn starved to death in October 2016; 18-year-old Malayia Knapp went public with her own history of abuse in early 2017; and in May 2017 the body of 16-year-old Sabrina Ray was discovered in her parents’ basement. All three were homeschooled. Lawmakers may have been thinking of these cases when drafting S.F. 224.
“There is a growing body of research that makes it clear that abusive parents can and do take advantage of lax homeschooling laws like those in Iowa to hide abuse,” Coleman said. 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.
Requiring homeschooling parents to deliver a notice of intent to homeschool in person might have another advantage: it would give parents the opportunity to learn about what resources the district offers homeschoolers. Many school districts in Iowa run “Home School Assistance Programs” that offer parents resources and access to enrichment programming.
“We urge Iowa lawmakers to pass S.F. 224,” said Coleman. “This bill benefits homeschooled students, homeschooling parents, and school districts all at once.”
CRHE has also released statements on H.F. 182 and H.F. 272.
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.