For Immediate Release: Revisions to Arkansas’ educational neglect statute should include protections for homeschooled students
Canton, Ma., 02/21/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is expressing concern about Senate Bill 250, which would more narrowly define the circumstances under which educational neglect may be reported. A House Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 250 is scheduled for today at 10am. SB 250 would limit the Child Abuse Hotline to accepting only reports that include allegations that a parent failed to enroll the child in school or “lawfully home-school the child.”
“Arkansas’ homeschool statute has no subject requirements, no instruction time requirements, and no assessment requirements,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “As a result, under the current law a parent can educationally neglect a child while ‘lawfully’ homeschooling. Homeschooling parents are not legally required to educate their children.” Coleman worries that SB 250 would further hinder the Division of Children and Family Services’ ability to intervene in such cases. “Lawmakers should bring the state’s homeschool law more in line with that of other states by creating subject requirements,” says Coleman.
While many home educated students receive an excellent education, this is not always the case. “We have spoken with homeschool alumni across the country who were educationally neglected as children” said Coleman. “The effects of educational neglect can last well into adulthood.” According to research by CRHE, there is reason to believe that homeschooled children under-attend college relative to other children. Coleman also raises concern about parents who take advantage of lax homeschool laws to hide other forms of maltreatment.
“A growing body of research has shed light on the extent to which abusive parents are using the homeschool law to isolate and mistreat their 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 many cases, parents who homeschool to conceal abuse also do not educate their children.
“This is not the time to curtail the Division of Children and Family Services’ ability to reach homeschooled children who are being educationally neglected,” said Coleman. “In the absence of any requirements outlining what it means to ‘lawfully’ homeschool a child, we worry that SB 250 would do more harm than good.”
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.