Protections for At-Risk Children

Very few states have any protections in place for at-risk children who are homeschooled, such as children whose parents have child abuse or neglect convictions in their past or troubling histories of social services involvement. Hover over or click on each state (text will appear below).

Protections on the books. No protections for at-risk children.

An Overview

Only two states offer any kind of protections for at-risk children who are homeschooled.

  • Pennsylvania prohibits homeschooling if the parent or any adult member of the household has been convicted of any of a range of offenses in the past five years. These offenses include homicide, aggravated assault, stalking, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, indecent exposure, incest, concealing the death of a child, endangering the welfare of children, dealing in infant children, prostitution, obscene and other sexual materials and performances, the corruption of minors, sexual abuse of children, and drug use.
  • Arkansas prohibits homeschooling if a registered sex offender lives in the household. Parents may petition the sentencing court to have this restriction waived.

None of the remaining 48 states conduct any form of background checks or take any measures to prohibit those whose children may be at risk of abuse or neglect from homeschooling.

Further, no state has any monitoring provisions in place for families who begin to homeschool during open child abuse or neglect investigations, or for families with concerning histories of social services involvement. Several states have introduced provisions to resolve this problem but so far none have become law.

Our Policy Recommendations

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Protections for At-Risk Children

  • Parents who have committed offenses that would disqualify them from teaching school should not be permitted to homeschool.
  • At-risk children should be flagged for additional protections and support.
  • Students should be assessed annually by mandatory reporters.

We recommend barring from homeschooling parents convicted of child abuse, sexual offenses, or other crimes that would disqualify them from employment as a school teacher. This provision is currently in place in Pennsylvania. We also recommend creating a process for flagging at-risk children, such as those in families with a troubling history of child protective services involvement, for intervention or additional monitoring. Finally, we recommend that the annual assessment requirement be conducted by mandatory reporters such as certified teachers; these individuals should be trained in how to recognize signs of abuse and how to report suspicions of maltreatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

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How will your policy recommendations protect homeschooled children from abuse or neglect?

Our recommendations offer protections for homeschooled children by preventing convicted abusers from homeschooling, flagging at-risk children for additional safeguards, and ensuring that homeschooled children have annual contact with mandatory reporters. In numerous cases of severe abuse or neglect, parents have begun homeschooling after previous unsubstantiated child abuse reports in an effort to isolate the child and ensure that there will be less risk of future reports. In order to deal with this problem, we recommend both barring parents who have committed offenses that would prevent them from teaching in school (such as sexual offenses or child abuse or neglect) and running the names of homeschoolers through a child welfare database to ensure that there is not a suspicious history of previous reports. Finally, we recommend requiring students to be assessed annually by educational professionals who are also mandatory reporters and requiring parents to adhere to the same medical requirements as parents of public school students, including annual physicals or other medical examinations.

To read more about how abusive parents can use homeschooling to intensify and conceal their abuse, see Abuse in Homeschooling Environments. To read individual cases of severe child abuse and neglect in homeschool settings, see Homeschooling’s Invisible Children.

Click here to read more frequently asked questions!

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