Ohio Cases Highlight Need to Protect Homeschooled Children

For Immediate Release: Ohio’s homeschool requirements saved one child but failed another

Canton, Ma., 01/09/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) supports a letter-writing campaign by teachers in Dayton Public Schools urging state lawmakers to act in the wake of the tragic death of 10-year-old Takoda Collins. Takoda was removed from school to be homeschooled after a school employee reported abuse concerns in May 2018. Authorities discovered evidence that Takoda had been horrifically tortured when they found him unresponsive in the family’s home in December 2019. “It is well-established that abusive parents can and do take advantage of lax homeschooling laws to isolate their children and hide abuse,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, a national nonprofit organization that was founded in 2013 to advocate for homeschooled children. 

Joni Watson, a teacher at the school Takoda attended prior to being withdrawn to be homeschooled, told lawmakers that, when a child is removed from school following reports to children’s services, “there needs to be something additional put in place to ensure that child is checked on.” In the past decade, bills that would flag cases where parents begin to homeschool after a concerning history of child abuse and neglect allegations or other risk factors have been introduced in Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, as well as in Ohio in 2013. 

According to CRHE, which maintains a database of severe and fatal child abuse cases in homeschool settings, cases like Takoda’s are far too common. A study published by the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate in 2018 found that 31% of children withdrawn from school to be homeschooled lived in families with founded or multiple past child welfare reports. In a 2014 study of child torture conducted by a team of pediatricans, 47% of school-age victims studied were removed from school to be homeschooled, typically after the closure of a past child welfare report (another 29% were never enrolled in school). 

“Many of the cases in our database involve children withdrawn from school after a history of child abuse,” said Coleman. “Abusive parents too often realize they can avoid reports from school personnel by withdrawing their children from school to homeschool them. As a result, the lax homeschooling law becomes a tool abusive parents use to isolate their children from those who might have been able to help them.” Coleman adds that Takoda is not the only homeschooled child in Ohio whose horrific abuse came to light this fall. In September, an 11-year-old Georgetown girl was found locked in a trailer, monitored by security cameras, and so underweight from long-term starvation that she developed a severe protein deficiency. 

“In the past few years, we have seen an increase in awareness about the problem and attempts to protect children like Takoda,” Coleman says. She notes that in some cases, Ohio’s homeschool requirements have been able to protect children from abuse; the Georgetown girl was rescued by authorities after a teacher administering a required annual test reported concerns about the girl’s welfare. Another check or layer of oversight when children are withdrawn from school after a history of child abuse or neglect reports, Coleman says, would protect additional children—and might have saved Takoda. 

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.

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