Child advocacy group condemns Nebraska’s LB 1027, warns of risks to homeschooled children


[Washington, D.C.] – The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the leading national nonprofit advocating for homeschooled children, condemns Nebraska’s proposed legislation, LB 1027. If enacted, the bill would introduce unnecessary changes to the state’s homeschool enrollment process, potentially fostering a neglectful attitude towards homeschooling, and raising concerns about the well-being and education of homeschooled children.

The bill’s key points of concern are as follows:

Changes to the Enrollment Process

LB 1027 introduces unnecessary changes to the enrollment process, potentially encouraging a neglectful attitude towards homeschooling.

Removal of Safeguards Against Educational Neglect

LB 1027 eliminates any possibility for school districts or state services to identify and address cases of educational neglect within homeschooling.

Empowerment of Abusers

LB 1027 makes it possible for abusers to unilaterally make educational choices for their children without the input of the co-parent, raising concerns about the safety and well-being of homeschooled children in potentially abusive situations.

Removal of Competency Requirement

LB 1027 removes the stipulation that home educators must be competent to teach, potentially compromising the quality of education provided to homeschooled children.

“The Nebraska Department of Education is facing severe understaffing in handling homeschool enrollments. Instead of addressing this issue by increasing resources, special interest groups are advocating to abandon the process altogether. This is a classic example of under-resourcing a government office and then using its inefficiency as an argument to eliminate the office and its duties,” said CRHE government relations director Samantha Field.

Proponents of the bill promote the false narrative that homeschooled children outperform their peers. However, the research used to support this claim has been widely discredited as methodologically unsound. Credible research on homeschool achievement paints a less bright picture: for example, multiple studies point to the existence of the so-called “math gap,” finding that homeschooled students perform worse in mathematics than their conventionally schooled peers. Although additional research is needed, large-scale studies find that homeschooled students are more likely to report being behind grade level than publicly schooled peers, and that four-year university attendance among homeschool alumni is very low.

Nebraska has multiple documented cases of educational neglect and physical abuse in homeschool settings, such as the case of 13-year-old Cassandra B. in Lancaster County. The teenager was abused by her homeschooling mother, and the state later prevented the mother from homeschooling her other daughter once Cassandra’s abuse came to light. Cases such as this one illustrate the importance of state oversight to address and prevent such abuse and neglect.

“We urge Nebraska lawmakers to consider the negative impact LB 1027 would have on the state’s homeschooled children,” said Field. “Any legislation impacting homeschooled children should prioritize their safety, well-being, and educational quality.”

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education empowers homeschooled children by educating the public and advocating for child-centered, evidence-based policy and practices for families and professionals.


Homeschooled children’s advocacy group celebrates 10 years, launches “$10K for 10 Years” campaign


The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the nation’s leading homeschooled children’s advocacy nonprofit, celebrates its 10th anniversary this December with a $10,000 fundraiser.

Together, CRHE board president Carmen Longoria-Green and supporters Caleb and Hannah Lowery will match up to $10,000 in donations to CRHE from Giving Tuesday through December. 

“2023 has been a banner year for CRHE,” said Longoria-Green. “From appearing on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Amazon Prime’s Shiny Happy People to presenting at the internationally renowned Crimes Against Children conference and releasing a first-of-its-kind college and career readiness guide for homeschooled students, our team has marked our 10th year by taking our work to new heights. We wholeheartedly thank our supporters as they help us continue to build on a decade of advocacy.”

Since its founding, CRHE has worked to ensure homeschooled children’s right to a quality education in a safe home is affirmed and protected by laws, stakeholders, and society as a whole. The organization is known for its groundbreaking research project, Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, the world’s only database of severe abuse and neglect cases in homeschool settings. Beyond research, the organization’s focus areas include government relations, resource development, communications, and direct services.

“CRHE was founded in 2013 by a small group of homeschool alumni who wanted to address a problem: the use of homeschooling to isolate, abuse, and neglect children,” said CRHE executive director Angela Grimberg. “We’re proud of our advocacy for homeschooled children over the past 10 years, and we look forward to expanding this vital work in the years to come.”


Declan: “I want in any way I can to be the person I needed to advocate for me”

I have suffered with imposter syndrome for the last 15 years; feeling like I have somehow lied or tricked my way into getting a seat at the tables where I find myself seated, not being able to feel truly proud of my own social, academic and career accomplishments despite my childhood and upbringing.

Content Note: This testimonial contains detailed descriptions of physical and emotional abuse, and instances of ableism and queerphobia. 

I was raised and homeschooled by fundamentalist Christians in south Louisiana for the majority of my childhood, later ‘graduating’ in Texas. Louisiana law required yearly submission of coursework to prove you are educating your children, but this information can easily be fabricated, and often was. I recall knowing other homeschooled children in my church who were 10-12 years old, and they did not yet know how to read or write, but they could recite the Christian Bible. 

The quality of our education was contingent on whether our mother was naturally good at that subject or not, resulting in my strongest subjects being English and Grammar and my weakest being Science and Mathematics. In fear of disappointing our mother and incurring her wrath and frustration, we would find the answer books in the house and cheat. This resulted in physical and verbal abuse from our mother, and physical abuse later by our father who was forced to belt us through his own tears. 

The emotional, physical, and psychological toll this took on my sister and me runs deep. 

We moved to Texas in what should have been my junior year, but due to my mother wanting to get on with her life, she made it my senior year. She failed to research Texas homeschool laws and brought whatever textbooks and subjects we had from the prior year. Three months before my sister and I were to be “graduating”, she read that the state of Texas requires Chemistry, Health, and a few other classes. I did not take those classes and my sister who moved back to Louisiana with her then-boyfriend did not take those classes, but our grocery store notarized transcripts that listed these subjects, along with some fudged grades from tests and subjects that were never taken. 

The ‘beginning of the end’ for me was when I got tricked  into going to community college (another story for another time). I sat in classes with kids two years younger than me and learned about internment camps, evolution, actual ancient history that was not a bible story, and that remedial math was mostly full of people who had forgotten how to do math or had a learning disability, not very often filled with kids who never learned it. I learned what a GPA was, and that a room number like 202 or 404 meant it was on the second or fourth floor. I learned my worst fear was true – I did not know as much as the other kids my age and I had a long road to self-love, compassion, and pride.

I had to drop out after a year because my father had been laid off. I went back a year later, but the week before class I broke my knee. I was already deeply fearful that kids would find out I was uneducated, but being in a wheelchair made me physically more noticeable and I could not handle that. Also, the campus and classmates were not very wheelchair-friendly.I once sat outside an elevator for 30 minutes in a building that was only two floors, so I went home and convinced my parents that the school wasn’t wheelchair accessible and that I was in too great of pain to go to school. Really, I was afraid of failure and deeply depressed. I had come out to my mother in 2009. For a fundamentalist Christian Conservative family, it went as well as you can imagine. 

I didn’t go back to school until 2013 after I had moved to Kalamazoo, MI, to be closer to the girl I had been dating for some time. My first semester there was what the news called a “snowpocalypse”. A young girl pulled out in front of me resulting in my car being completely totaled. I had to drop out of school again. 

In 2015 I found myself in smaller town in Michigan where no matter where you lived, you were basically within walking distance to the university. I used to say, “It would take a piano falling out of a window to stop me from graduating.” I graduated with an undergraduate in Political Science and Public Policy in 2018. 

I have suffered with imposter syndrome for the last 15 years; feeling like I have somehow lied or tricked my way into getting a seat at the tables where I find myself seated, not being able to feel truly proud of my own social, academic and career accomplishments despite my childhood and upbringing.

Homeschooling resulted in psychological, emotional and, at times, physical abuse and  neglect, and there was no one outside of the homeschool community to help us. I want in any way I can to be the person I needed to advocate for me. 

Declan was homeschooled in Louisiana from 1995-2007. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

CRHE Condemns Neo-Nazi Homeschool Network


The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the nation’s leading homeschooled children’s rights nonprofit, condemns the actions of the Dissident Homeschool community and warns the public that the group’s actions were possible because of inadequate homeschool laws nationwide.

“The hateful, violent, and bigoted ideologies forced upon innocent children by the Dissident Homeschool group have no place in the homeschooling community. Their efforts do a massive disservice to their children, their community, and our nation,” said CRHE executive director Angela Grimberg. “We condemn their beliefs and actions in the strongest possible terms.”

Led by parents in Ohio, the recently uncovered community of nearly 2,500 online participants develops and shares “Nazi-approved material” to be given to homeschooled children. Assignments distributed by the group label Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee a “grand role model for young, white men” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “the antithesis of our civilization and our people.”

Like many states, Ohio homeschool law contains loopholes and inadequacies that are easily exploited by parents with bad intentions. For this reason, said CRHE board chair Carmen Longoria-Green, the Dissident Group – horrific as its stated intentions are – is likely in compliance with the minimal requirements of state law. “In the 1980s and 1990s, the Home School Legal Defense Association bullied legislators across the country into removing protections that would have ensured homeschooled children would receive a quality education in a safe home,” said Longoria-Green. “Today, children in Ohio and in every other state suffer the consequences of HSLDA’s destructive lobbying.”

“At CRHE, we want to create a culture change in homeschooling. We envision a world in which parents homeschool to promote their child’s overall well-being instead of their own personal agendas,” said CRHE research director Dr. Chelsea McCracken. “In an environment like the Dissident Homeschool group, a neo-Nazi ideology is the only one that the homeschooled children might be learning. Their parents can easily deny them the chance to hear a different viewpoint or to access the tools to form their own beliefs. That kind of homeschooling is a violation of children’s rights – their rights to self-expression, freedom of conscience, and to an education that prepares them for an open future, which includes understanding how to respect people from other cultures and backgrounds.”

“Children have the right to the information they need to form their own beliefs and identities apart from their parents’,” said Grimberg. “In CRHE’s Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children, we affirm the importance of this right and many others.” The Bill of Rights, an aspirational vision for the homeschooling movement based on the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, was published in 2021.

“Homeschooled children deserve a high-quality education that gives them a chance at a bright, open future and prepares them to thrive in a changing, diverse world,” said Grimberg. “We urge lawmakers to instead develop policies to promote positive outcomes for every homeschooled child.”


Candice K.: “I do not think my story is rare or even exceptional.”

“I am sharing my story now because I have seen the society that I live in repeatedly fail its most vulnerable members, those who have no volition over their own lives. I have seen my neighbors’ children endure substantially increased abuse and neglect due to homeschooling during the pandemic, and others just not attend school at all because our government and its protocols of red tape and bureaucracy seem more concerned with protecting the rights of the adults abusing their children, than of the children being traumatized.”

Content Warning: This testimonial contains graphic descriptions of child abuse, and a brief mention of sexual violence against children.

I do not think my story is rare or even exceptional. In fact, in recent years, thanks to the power of social media, I have learned that my story is actually quite common among those who were “homeschooled” as children.

I am sharing my story now because I have seen the society that I live in repeatedly fail its most vulnerable members, those who have no volition over their own lives. I have seen my neighbors’ children endure substantially increased abuse and neglect due to homeschooling during the pandemic, and others just not attend school at all because our government and its protocols of red tape and bureaucracy seem more concerned with protecting the rights of the adults abusing their children than of the children being traumatized.

I am the oldest of four children. I was born and raised in West Palm Beach Florida by evangelical parents. It’s my understanding that both of my parents dropped out of high school and later went back to get either diploma equivalency or GEDs. My mother met a woman at church when I was about 6 years old. At that time, I was attending public school and while I didn’t love everything about school, I enjoyed it for the most part. This woman began to encourage (or what I now see as unduly influence) my mother to homeschool her children. My mother was filled with fear of the public education system by this woman and others, fears of all things secular and “worldly”. This woman also “encouraged” my mother to leave our mainstream denominational church and we began attending her small “non-denominational” church. My father blindly followed along to appease my mother.

This new church also had many homeschooling families. At this church I was bullied by my peers and adult Sunday school teachers. I was publicly humiliated in front of my peers repeatedly, and my brothers were sexually abused by the music ministers’ sons. Instead of going to the authorities, my mother “submitted” our family to the Pastor’s council, hich was “boys will be boys” and not to bring it up again. A year or two later we followed that same woman to a different non-denominational church. Although this new church was less toxic, the undercurrent of homeschooling families and church as the be-all end-all for life-altering decisions continued.

The church encouraged corporal punishment for children, with the parents swapping tips on how to avoid CPS intervention. I distinctly recall one conversation where a church member told my parents not to use a belt anymore as it could cause internal bleeding. Among their suggestions for a replacement was a large wooden paddle or the turning implement for window blinds. My mother loved to use scriptures such as Proverbs 13:24 or 23:13 and Ephesians 6:1-3 to endorse her physical abuse. To be clear we were hit with a wooden dowel, as well as being slapped across the head, face, or body. My mother laughed that we “did the rod dance” as we would scramble to get away from the beatings and had to be held by the arm so we could not run away. My father spanked us as well, but his were restrained. He talked to us before and after about why we were being spanked, he also hugged us afterwards and attempted to comfort us. My mother, however, seemed to take sheer pleasure in beating us. She frequently flew into rages and her face would suddenly switch. She enjoyed inflicting pain on us and would often smile or smirk during and after. I genuinely feared for my life on numerous occasions. We were also verbally abuse, stupid, and idiot were her favorites insults. We were hit for spilling milk or for not being able to follow instructions with one prompt. On numerous occasions we were left with welts or bruises on our backs or bottoms.

To pile onto this, my parents fought violently. My father never hit my mother, but his rages would destroy doors, plates, and walls. My mother frequently taunted my father and provoked him almost as if she wanted him to hit her. Only in my 30s did I realize it was domestic violence (since he never actually struck my mother). Because of this I was extremely parentified, often barricading my siblings in a room with me during the fights or whispering across the hall to them to stay hidden until it was all over.

During all this, our homeschooling was self-taught. The small effort my mom put towards education was on my younger brother who struggled to learn to read. My mother purchased textbooks secondhand. There were no lesson plans, no curriculum to speak of. We had books for various topics and a few computer programs (later when I was older), and we taught ourselves. My mother spent the majority of her time caring for my youngest sibling, or on the phone. She also left me to watch the siblings while she went to clean houses for extra money. When I came to algebra in early middle school, I was not able to teach myself. My mother was not capable either and she hired a tutor through the church, and he tutored me once a week. I made some progress however was not learning or implementing anything outside of those weekly sessions and 1–2-page homework sheets he assigned, as there was no oversight on my day-to-day work. At one point I was grading my own work using the back of my books or the teacher guide. I now can see how the trauma I was experiencing daily prevented me from learning as my brain was in a constant state of hypervigilance. I could not feel safe in my own home, so how could I possibly take in such complex concepts–and with little to no instruction to boot? I can’t remember what year I stopped taking the state-mandated annual compulsory test, but no one from the state or department of education ever followed up when I did.

Our social interactions consisted of church 3x a week and an all Christian/homeschooling 4-H club. My mother did everything in her power to keep us away from influences she feared. She was technically a member of a Christian homeschool organization and we did attend those events on occasion. However, since they cost money, it was not very consistent.

Around the age 10 I begged my parents to send me to private Christian school. They said they couldn’t afford to send us all, so that meant no one could go. Although I now know we were so poor I would have qualified for some type of scholarship or assistance, my mom didn’t even look into it. Around age 13 I begged again to attend high school. Most of the homeschoolers I knew were being allowed to attend public school. My mother stated our school district was too dangerous, with gangs and violence and she refused to use a relative’s address for me to attend a better school. It was around this time that I gave up on trying to teach myself at all instead I babysat full time for church families. My goal was to get as much money as possible, take the GED early and get out of my parent’s home ASAP. I eventually was approved to take the GED early (on my second request) and completed it right before my 17th birthday. My mother had no idea how to track credits or even apply for a HS diploma, so this was my only way forward.

Due to my experience as a “homeschooler” I am now passionate about advocating for more regulation and accountability for children. If I had been in school, I would have had a haven (even if only for part of the day) from all the abuse and neglect I experienced. I struggled my way to a bachelor’s degree, an accomplishment that I am proud of, as I didn’t even know what an essay was when I enrolled in college. My hope is that no more children will have the experience I had. I firmly believe children need a diverse peer group as well as numerous adults interacting with them to support them and be able to watch for signs of abuse and neglect, which an insular community cannot provide.

Candice was homeschooled in Florida from 1986-1997. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

CRHE Board of Directors Appoints Angela Grimberg as Executive Director 


The Board of Directors of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education is pleased to announce the appointment of Angela Grimberg to the position of executive director.

Angela is a researcher and advocate who shares the organization’s mission of seeing homeschooled students protected, nurtured, and empowered. Angela advocated for her educational advancement and achievement as a homeschooled student when inadequate resources left her unprepared for college. “Having gone through the home education system myself, I saw the regulatory failures firsthand and how many children fall through the cracks of a curriculum susceptible to abuse,” Angela said.

Homeschooled kindergarten through freshman year of high school, Angela enrolled in a dual program where she earned an associate’s degree and a high school diploma before going on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Florida. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science from Nova Southeastern University – Orlando. Angela comes to the role of executive director with an understanding of research protocols, advocacy experience on state legislative issues, and a passion for service.

Angela’s interest in research was sparked when she saw wide gaps in the outcomes that homeschooled students achieve. She enjoys examining through her research the fundamental question of why people’s lives take different paths – an interest she’s explored in past projects that also intersects with CRHE’s research focus. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Angela as our executive director,” said Chair of the Board of Directors Carmen Longoria-Green. “We know she will be an energetic, passionate, and committed advocate for homeschooled children. Her research experience will bring an analytical and strategic lens to CRHE’s ongoing research work. CRHE’s work is more important than ever, and we are excited to see what CRHE will accomplish under her leadership.”

The Board of Directors extends its deepest thanks to Jeremy C. Young and Kieryn Darkwater for serving as interim executive directors during the executive search, and to the donors who contributed to the fundraising campaign to raise the initial salary for this role. Your commitment fuels our vision – a future where homeschooled children’s right to a comprehensive and empowering education and to a safe and supportive home environment is affirmed and protected by laws, stakeholders, and society as a whole. With your help, CRHE will continue to grow and expand our activities and our reach, fulfilling our mission to empower homeschooled children.


Valerie: “I know that not everyone in my position is so lucky”

At first, being home seemed fun and easy. However, as the subjects progressed, I felt myself falling behind. I would overhear other kids at the co-op talking about their classes and I was never learning about any of the same things.

My parents pulled me out of private christian school when I was only in kindergarten. I had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and was really struggling with school, despite my love of reading and how much I enjoyed being at school. At first, being home seemed fun and easy. However, as the subjects progressed, I felt myself falling behind. I would overhear other kids at the co-op talking about their classes and I was never learning about any of the same things. I was always behind, especially in math, history and science. My parents purchased us a chemistry course, but because we were impoverished, and couldn’t afford the items to conduct experiments, they asked us to just “do what we could with it.” 

Later in high school, entire subjects were replaced with learning style computer games like Cluefinders and Carmen San Diego. By college, I was really behind. I flunked out of every math and science class, despite trying my best. My papers came back with exasperated comments from my teachers, and I knew I needed to make it up somehow. I’m very fortunate that I had friends, some helpful tutors, some very gracious teachers and a healthy community around me to help me eventually get to graduation.

I know that not everyone in my position is so lucky. I know others who have had an amazing, fulfilling and educational experience homeschooling and I want that experience for every homeschooler. Everyone deserves the right to a safe and successful educational environment. and I believe homeschooling is equipped to provide that with the right tools.

Valerie was homeschooled in Virginia from 2000-2010. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Community Voices page.

Amid calls to homeschool after school shootings, homeschool alumni group urges caution


After every mass shooting in a school, homeschool advocates position homeschooling as the answer to protect children from violence. Most recently, the Robb Elementary School mass shooting—which claimed the lives of 19 children and two adults—has provoked renewed interest in homeschooling from concerned parents and the general public. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), the nation’s only nonpartisan advocacy organization founded and run by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, believes this is not a viable solution, and urges the public instead to make public schools and homeschools alike safe for the children who depend on them. 

Homeschooling is not the solution to protecting children from gun violence. The past decade alone has seen a rise in mass shootings at movie theaters, grocery stores, churches, concerts, and other locations frequented by children. Removing children from school does not guarantee they will not encounter gun violence elsewhere; in fact, homeschooled children like Isaac Miller, Mallory Evans, and Olivia Huggler have been killed by mass shooters in their own homes. Instead, the removal of children from schools only guarantees they will lose access to the services and community schools provide.

Homeschooling does not necessarily protect children from any form of violence. CRHE maintains Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, a database tracking hundreds of cases of child abuse and neglect in homeschooling environments. According to our data, at least 156 homeschooled children have been murdered in homeschooling environments over the past two decades, a rate higher than that of their public-school peers. “Because of the largely deregulated state of homeschooling in the U.S., homeschooled children have no guaranteed access to mandatory reporters, health and wellness services, and other measures that can identify and address problems at home,” said CRHE interim executive director Kieryn Darkwater. “This situation leaves millions of homeschooled children uniquely vulnerable to abuse and neglect with minimal opportunities for intervention.”

Furthermore, homeschooling itself can often be a contributing factor when young people commit violence. Some homeschooled children commit violence against caregivers to escape extreme abuse or a life-threatening situation. These children may feel that they have no one to turn to for help, and that violence is their only option when their lives are at stake.

Other homeschooled children and alumni who commit acts of violence seem to be fueled by the same trends as in society at large—toxic masculinity, white supremacy, alienation—which are then magnified by the homeschool environment. Homeschool alumni have been explicitly trained by their parents to become extremist terrorists or have been radicalized by their homeschool curriculum with tacit approval from their parents. Sometimes homeschooling is used as a “solution” for children who demonstrate violent tendencies, which may then worsen the problem. And for other homeschooled children, the isolation of the homeschool environment may contribute to a sense of disconnection where violence seems like an appealing alternative. The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School and 2018 Nashville Waffle House shootings, for example, were committed by men who had been homeschooled. 

“Our database of homeschooled children and alumni who have committed acts of violence reveals common patterns,” said CRHE research director Dr. Chelsea McCracken. “Not only is homeschooling an ineffective escape from societal problems that affect us all, in some cases it may intensify those problems. As a result, we find that homeschooling works best when it is chosen not out of fear, but as a positive, child-centered approach to education that prepares children for an open future.” In this vein, CRHE’s Bill of Rights for Homeschooled Children, an aspirational vision for the homeschooling movement released in 2021, details an experience that centers the rights and needs of children. 

Schools serve an indispensable function in society, offering vital services to millions of children who would not otherwise have access to them. Schools offer comprehensive education, disability and wellness services, sports and recreational opportunities, college and career preparedness, and the chance to form meaningful relationships with peers and mentors. For many children, public schools are the best educational choice available. Instead of abandoning schools in the name of protecting children, we urge parents and policymakers to renew their commitment to making public schools safe. Studies have shown that measures addressing gun violence, poverty, and inequity promote a safer and better society for all children, regardless of how they are educated. Individual educational choices are not a solution to a collective societal problem.

“All children deserve a high-quality education in a safe, supportive environment. Whether a child goes to public school or is homeschooled, there’s a lot that must be done to make sure that child is safe and has everything they need to thrive,” said Darkwater. “As CRHE continues to advocate for the rights and safety of homeschooled children, we fully support the educators and advocates working to improve public schools to best serve children’s needs there.”


When Parents Have All The Rights, Children Have None. A Statement from the Interim Executive Director.


There’s a “parental rights revolution” afoot in America today. Republicans across the U.S. are introducing “Parents’ Bill of Rights” legislation which would enable parents to exercise veto power over every assignment in their children’s curricula and to prevent their children from getting medical assistance without their knowledge. Conservative groups urge their members to “fight for parents’ rights.”

As leader of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, an organization that advocates for homeschooled children and is run by homeschool alumni, I’ve seen all of this before. In the homeschooling movement, which has long been the home base of the most vocal parental rights activists, these ideas have resulted in the complete erosion of child welfare protections and, in some cases, in the deaths of children. Now parental rights extremism is coming for our public school system, and Americans should be very afraid.

For decades, the term “parental rights” was synonymous with the political activities of Michael P. Farris, the founder and current board chair of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). Farris created the advocacy organization to promote a constitutional amendment asserting that “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right,” restricted only when “a parental action or decision…would end life.” played a key organizing role in the passage of the Florida Parents’ Bill of Rights, which inspired the new federal bill.

Farris was most recently in the news because of a New York Times report alleging that he played a key role in attempts to overthrow the 2020 U.S. presidential election. But since the 1990s, his primary influence on American politics has been to promote the absolute supremacy of parental rights, to the exclusion of the rights and protections of children. Some of this work has spilled over into mainstream politics. For instance, Farris’s opposition to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every other country in the world, is largely responsible for preventing its ratification in the United States.

But homeschooled children have borne the brunt of Farris’s efforts. Under Farris’s leadership, HSLDA has led efforts to strip away basic legal protections for homeschooled children in every state. Today, it is legal in 48 states for a person convicted of crimes against children to homeschool their own children without any restrictions – even a requirement that their children have contact with mandatory reporters of child abuse. In most states, it is legal to deny one’s child any education at all; in eleven, parents do not even need to notify the local school district of their intent to homeschool their children. When homeschooling parents are arrested for abuse, HSLDA rushes to defend them in court. In 2005, an HSLDA attorney working for Farris said of a father who imprisoned his children in cages, “I think he is a hero.”

The results have been both predictable and tragic. In the absence of necessary legal protections, at least 156 children have been murdered in homeschool settings over the past twenty years, a rate higher than the national average among school-age children. Thanks to a lack of oversight, the thirteen children of homeschooling parents David and Louise Turpin endured horrific abuse for over two decades, including being chained to their beds for months at a time, before one escaped and called for help. After teachers at 14-year-old Teddy Foltz-Tedesco’s school noticed he was being abused and called child protective services, his mother and stepfather withdrew him from school and began homeschooling him to escape scrutiny. His stepfather later murdered him. Raylee Browning, an 8-year-old homeschooled girl in West Virginia, died of sepsis after drinking from a toilet because her father refused her access to water. After registering their son as homeschooled under Kansas law, the parents of 7-year-old Adrian Jones tortured him to death, then fed his body to pigs. Leelah Alcorn’s parents withdrew her from public school to homeschool her as punishment for being trans, cutting her off from all support at school. The isolation and abuse that followed caused her death. 

Most parents advocating for parents’ rights today would rightly be appalled by these stories. Yet in the aftermath of these cases, it was outraged parental rights activists who blocked legislative reforms that would have prevented such tragedies from occurring. “At what point should a parent have their rights and freedoms taken away by the government for the betterment of the child?,” asked a West Virginia parent during a successful campaign last year against Raylee’s Law. Another called the law “an infringement on parental rights.” “They think you’re trying to violate their rights, but we’re just trying to protect these kids,” Teddy’s father lamented last year, after a bill based on his son’s case failed repeatedly in the legislature. “It was crazy.”

The Parental Rights Movement, partially led by Michael Farris as head of the Alliance Defending Freedom, is set on ensuring that all children in the US regardless of educational method have no recourse or escape from abuse at the hands of their caretakers. The attacks on LGBTQIA+ students and teachers are spearheaded by the same people whose mission is to destroy public education at any cost. They are doing it under the guise of “good parenting,” and using the same debunked homophobic rhetoric from the “gay panic” of the 1980s that saved no one but killed many. 

No parent or guardian has the right to destroy the life and future livelihood of their children. That includes removing them from supportive communities and resources, depriving them of education by banning books and harassing teachers out of the profession, and removing every legal safeguard in favor of allowing complete control over children with little-to-no consequences for inflicting harm. 

Parental rights extremism is dangerous because parents, as a group, are not infallible paragons of virtue; they are people, like everyone else. Most are kind and loving toward their children; some are monstrously cruel. The goal of our laws should be to protect children’s wellbeing by balancing parents’ right to care for and guide their children with children’s right to remain free of abuse and neglect. Legislation that awards parents absolute control over their children – such as the Parents’ Bill of Rights – gives that power to all parents, including the monsters. America’s children deserve better than that. Children’s rights are human rights, and it’s our job to make sure they have them.

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