January 5, 2015
As advocates for homeschooled children, we were deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender teen who was homeschooled. In a note she left on her tumblr, Leelah explained that her parents removed her from public school as a way to isolate and control her. In this case, it seems that Leelah’s parents used homeschooling as a form of punishment and a way to remove a young woman from her support system, her friends, and access to counseling.
We deplore the use of homeschooling to harm and punish at-risk children. Homeschooling should be a child-centered educational option, used only to lovingly prepare young people for an open future. It should not be a weapon to isolate and control them. Leelah’s death is a tragic reminder: at-risk homeschooled children need support. Children like Leelah need people who can advocate for them, connect them with resources, and let them know about options.
As we have seen in the high-profile cases of Marcel Neergaard, Coy Mathis, and Cee Cee Ott, homeschooling can actually be used as a safe haven for children at risk of bullying in other academic situations. This is as it should be. To use homeschooling to make vulnerable children more unsafe is unacceptable.
We recognize that homeschooling is only one facet of Leelah’s tragic story. Before she died, Leelah said, “My death needs to mean something.” No one should believe that they have to die for their life to matter, so her words should renew our resolve to fight against stigma, eradicate prejudice, and to advocate for all LGBTQ teens, no matter where they get their education. We work toward greater recognition of the rights and needs of homeschooled children, and a world in which all teens have the support they need and hope for a bright future.
The board of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education
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.
The following resources will help teens, parents, policy-makers, and journalists discuss these issues with the sensitivity and the urgency that they deserve:
Families, friends, & allies
For trans persons
Talking about Trans Suicide
The Trevor Project
Gender, on Everyone Is Gay
Some Genderqueer Identities
The Nonbinary Safe Space
Coming Out Resources for Ninbinary Folks
Transgender Teen Survival Guide
Trans Active Gender Center
I Am Jazz