Hawaii Bill Would Let Homeschooled Students Play Sports

For Immediate Release: Alumni group says HB 2149 is good for homeschooled students

02/12/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging Hawaii lawmakers to support House Bill 2149, which would grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs. Currently, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) requires student athletes to be enrolled in the public school for which they compete, barring homeschooled students from participating. HB 2149 would change this. “Access to public school athletics programs benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for either public schools or other students,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE.

HB 2149 would allow any homeschooled student who “meets the participation requirements and restrictions for an individual sport, including maintaining appropriate grade point averages, paying appropriate fees, and signing a release and express assumption of risk waiver” to participate on the team of the school they would have otherwise been required to attend. 

“Homeschooled students who participate in athletics in their local public schools typically gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis,” said Coleman. Critics frequently allege that allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs takes opportunities away from other students; Coleman says the evidence for this is sparse. A 2012 survey of athletic associations in states that allow homeschooled students to participate in athletics at their local public schools found that this policy had not created problems for either students or schools. 

In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences. Some respondents noted that athletics programs outside of public schools were limited, especially at later grades: “Once I reached junior high age there were no longer any community sports available,” wrote one participant; another noted that public school athletics programs “are very often the only access for students like myself who grew up in underprivileged areas.” 

Currently, 30 states grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs, putting Hawaii in the minority. “Granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “We urge Hawaii lawmakers to support the state’s homeschooled students by taking action on HB 2149.”

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. 

 

Homeschool Group: Colorado HB 20-1144 Would Harm Children

For Immediate Release: Children have a right to safety, liberty, and dignity

02/10/2020–The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging Colorado lawmakers to reject House Bill 20-1144, which would establish a “parents’ bill of rights.” HB 20-1144, which CRHE warns would negatively impact Colorado children, is sponsored by representatives Rod Pelton (R) and will come before the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on Thursday. 

“Parents’ right to choose how to educate their children must be balanced with children’s right to receive an education,” says Samantha Field, a policy advocate for CRHE. “HB 20-1144 eliminates that balance.” Field says that under HB 20-1144, requirements designed to protect children, such as assessments that ensure that homeschooled children are being educated, could be seen as a violation of parents’ absolute right to direct their education. 

Field warns that the ramifications of HB 20-1144 could threaten more than children’s right to an education. “In the case of children being harmed, giving parents fundamental and inalienable rights subject to strict scrutiny means rights will be denied to abused and neglected children,” says Field. “Where is the right to children’s safety, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, dignity, or the demands of their own conscience? Where is their right to be prepared to contribute to society?” 

“Laws, in order to be effective, must acknowledge the reality that harm happens to innocents, and one of the Colorado government’s responsibilities is to protect its innocent citizens against harm,” says Field. “Not every child, not even every homeschooled child, has an idyllic childhood.” Field points to numerous cases where children homeschooled in Colorado have experienced severe abuse, including 7-year-old Genesis Sims, whose body was found buried in her parents’ crawlspace in Monument, Colorado, and a blind, autistic teenager in Longmont, Colorado, who was experiencing kidney failure due to long term starvation when his abuse was discovered. “A 2014 study found that 47% of school-aged child torture victims were removed from school to be homeschooled,” says Field. “These children need more rights, not less.”  

Field warns that HB 20-1144 would create a heavy legal imbalance between the rights of children and the rights of parents in the state of Colorado, leaving significant unchecked power in the hands of abusive parents that would prevent minor children from accessing help in a crisis. The impact on homeschooled children, she says, would be especially significant. 

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. 

Action Needed: CO Bills HB20-1063 and HB20-1144

Representatives Geitner (R, district 19) and Pelton (R, district 65) have introduced a piece of legislation they are calling “Fundamental Family Rights” (HB20-1063) and “Parent’s Bill of Rights” (HB20-1144). If enacted, this legislation would give parents “fundamental” and “inalienable” rights over their children regarding every area of their life– as just one example, it makes it a crime if a teacher does not out their trans student to their non-affirming parents if they attempt to socially transition at school. Rep. Geitner and Pelton’s bills would make what happened to Leelah Alcorn an inevitability in Colorado.

When Leelah died, she begged us to “fix society, please.” Now is our chance to live up to her challenge because the hearing is February 13th, in the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.

What you can do:

  • If you are a resident of Colorado, please call the sponsors Geitner and Pelton, your state representatives, and Committee members (their contact information is below). If a phone call is not your preferred method of contact, you can email the committee representatives.
  • If you are not a current resident of Colorado but have experiences relevant to home education, being LGBT+, or child abuse and neglect that occured in Colorado, please feel free to contact the Education Committee members and tell them your story and your concerns with this bill.

When contacting legislators:

  • Always remember to be polite. Please remember to refer to representatives with their title and surname (ie, “Representative Smith”).
  • Listen, and be curious. Ask the representative for their perspective on the bill(s) first– you might be surprised by what you learn! If they support the bill(s), see if you can persuade them or give them something to think about. If they oppose, telling them your story can give them a helpful boost during the committee hearing.

The Coalition for Responsible Home Education’s Concerns with these bills:

  • The language of giving parents “fundamental,” “inalienable,” and “unobstructed” rights gives parents the authority to supersede the rights of their children, essentially eliminating children’s rights in Colorado.
  • Parent’s rights should never be discussed in isolation from parent’s responsibilities, and children’s rights must always be balanced with parental responsibilities.
  • This legislation enshrines parent’s authority and control into law without ever mentioning the rights of children to liberty, the pursuit of happiness, dignity, and their own conscience.
  • Children are not chattel: they are not “owned” by their parents. Children are no one’s property, to be treated or mistreated on the whim of another person.
  • If parents can direct their child’s education without “obstruction or interference,” what happens to children who aren’t educated? Who can’t even read?

Sponsors Contact Information:

Rep. Geitner:
303-866-2924
tim.geitner.house@state.co.us

Rep. Pelton:
303-866-3706
rod.pelton.house@state.co.us

Contact Information for Colorado State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee:

 Name Role Capitol Phone E-mail
 Chris Kennedy  Chair  303-866-2951
 chris.kennedy.house@state.co.us
 Sonya Jaquz Lewis  Vice Chair  303-866-2920
 sonya.jaquez.lewis.house@state.co.us
 Monica Duran  Committee  303-866-5522
 monica.duran.house@state.co.us
 Stephen Humphrey  Committee  303-866-2943
 rephumphrey48@yahoo.com
 Cathy Kipp  Committee  303-866-4569
 cathy.kipp.house@state.co.us
 Susan Lontine  Committee  303-866-2966
 susan.lontine.house@state.co.us
 Janice Rich  Committee  303-866-3068
 janice.rich.house@state.co.us
 Emily Sirota  Committee  303-866-2910
 emily.sirota.house@state.co.us
 Dave Williams  Committee  303-866-5525
 dave.williams.house@state.co.us

Don’t Be Afraid to Send Your Disabled Child to Public School

Since 1999, more and more disabled children are being homeschooled. There is limited research on this topic, but it is one of great interest to myself and others. A child having a psychiatric disability or a physical disability, or both, has been cited as a reason why parents homeschool. And this is understandable. I have been disabled all my life, and I know how frustrating it can be to try and get a public or even private school to accommodate disability.

I have seen both sides of this. When I lived on the east coast, in Syracuse, I went to public schools in the Westhill school district, a suburban area. My hearing loss was discovered when I was attending Holy Family Nursery School. I was 4 years old. I was fitted with hearing aids and very shortly afterwards started kindergarten at Cherry Road School. I was lucky. Schools in the Westhill district were very good. Even though I did not learn sign language, and I should have, my teachers were attentive and aware of my needs. I went to speech pathology every week, leaving my main classroom to work with Miss Mangano, who was an excellent speech therapist. I will always be grateful for the work she did with me. I continued speech pathology into third grade. I loved school, I was very good at reading, and my teachers challenged and encouraged me. They were invested in my success, and the success of all their students. The school was well-funded and parents were very involved. My third grade teacher even made sure I knew about some Deaf history.

In fourth grade, I moved to Oregon. I continued speech pathology but it was not as wonderful as it had been. The school I went to was the poorest in the district. I do not feel that my teachers were very aware of my disability at all. I also began to struggle with math. Most of the time, I felt bored with school, and I no longer liked it. My parents had the opportunity to send me to a private school, but since I had made friends at this new school, decided against it. I am actually ok with that because I met my best friend of 30 years at this elementary school and that has been a great gift to my life. However, I probably would have enjoyed going to a better school, academically. I tested very high, and that is why I could have gone to another school.

In about 1993, I started middle school at a school located very close to downtown. I had some great teachers, but they were overwhelmed. The school was underfunded. I remember classes being so crowded that I sat on the floor. We did not have textbooks. Many of the kids’ parents were drug addicts. The kids were also starting to turn to drugs. There were major problems at this school. I began to skip class and went to hang out downtown with my best friends. No one seemed to notice, so no one told my father. Speech pathology was cancelled, because there was no money in the budget for it. My struggles with math were handled by the administration saying I no longer had to take math classes. As a kid, I was totally fine with that!

Years passed and my father became distressed with how bad the schools in Eugene were. My mother was living in Syracuse, so he sent me back to live with her, and once again attend school in the Westhill district. One good thing about school in Oregon is that I had finally learned sign language, in 9th grade. Westhill High School, where I was sent, had a Deaf program.

Westhill was amazing. It was a public school, but it felt like a private school. It did have some issues because many of the students were wealthy and sheltered, and I was neither of those things. Teachers and the administration were unsure what to do with me. However, my mother advocated for me and things improved on that front. For the first time in my life, I was in a school with a Deaf program. I met other Deaf kids my age and talked to them in sign language. I had interpreters in my classes. If I needed hearing aid batteries, the office had them. Also, my difficulty in math was noticed. Unlike Oregon, I had to pass Course One math to graduate high school. Westhill had an excellent resource center and I was tutored one on one, which is ideal for hard of hearing or Deaf students. I began to achieve highly, and did very well in math. I once again liked school. I was not bored, I was challenged.

It can certainly be hard to get into a school like Westhill. I know that is not available to everyone. However, disabled students need a lot of support. In some cases, homeschool can be fine. For me, going to a public school was incredibly important to my future success. I needed Miss Rein, who was skilled in teaching disabled students math. I needed the other Deaf kids and the interpreters. I needed people who all had backgrounds and training in helping students like me. I was skilled at art, and I needed my art teacher, who understood that part of me. And I needed my speech pathologists. Westhill prepared me for college, and now I am working on my second master’s.

While we have all heard horror stories, or maybe even experienced them, about disability in public school, do not be afraid to send your disabled child to one. If it is like the schools I went to in Oregon, then that is not ideal, no. Sometimes it takes some looking, moving things around, etc. Public school can be a wonderful thing. It can be just what your disabled child may need, because there are so many supports in a public school. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find a good one. It is worth it when you do.

This is not to disparage homeschool. I think there are ways to successfully homeschool disabled children. However, I am glad that I went to public school and I am glad that my parents took the trouble to send me to a good one. Disabled children need a lot of support that a parent alone cannot offer. Also, parents need support, too. Consider public school as an option.

 

West Virginia Should Let Homeschooled Students Play Sports

For Immediate Release: Homeschool alumni group supports SB 131 and HB 2632 

02/07/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging West Virginia lawmakers to support Senate Bill 131 and its companion House Bill 2632, which would let homeschooled students participate in public school athletics programs. Currently, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission requires student athletes to be enrolled in the public school they represent, largely barring homeschooled students from participation. “Access to public school athletics programs benefits homeschooled students without creating problems for either public schools or other students,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE.

While some critics allege that allowing homeschooled students to participate in public school athletics programs takes opportunities away from other students, Coleman says the evidence for this is sparse. “Homeschooled students who participate in athletics in their local public schools typically gravitate toward activities without a limit on participants, such as cross country running or tennis,” said Coleman. A 2012 survey of athletic associations in states that allow homeschooled students to participate in athletics at their local public schools found that this policy had not created problems for either students or schools. SB 131 and HB 2632 address all common objections to granting homeschooled students access to public school athletics.

In 2016, CRHE conducted a survey of 150 homeschool graduates’ athletics experiences. Survey respondents overwhelmingly believed that athletic participation was beneficial to homeschooled students (87%). Some respondents noted that athletics programs outside of public schools were limited, especially at later grades: “Once I reached junior high age there were no longer any community sports available,” wrote one participant; another wrote that public school athletics programs “are very often the only access for students like myself who grew up in underprivileged areas.” Four in five respondents (80%) believed that public school athletics should be made available to homeschooled students. 

Currently, 30 states grant homeschooled students access to public school athletics programs, putting Georgia in the minority. “Granting homeschooled children access to public school athletics improves homeschool outcomes,” said Coleman. “We urge West Virginia lawmakers to support the state’s homeschooled students by taking action on SB 131 and HB 2632.”

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. 

Joan T.: “My dysfunctional and emotionally abusive home was my school.”

“I believe to this day—as I did in childhood—that I should not have been homeschooled, at least not all the way through high school as I was.”

For fifteen years, I was a princess in a tower.

I was homeschooled for my entire childhood and adolescence. My parents, as they proudly told everyone, picked their own textbooks to patch together their own curriculum.

I love my parents dearly, and to this day I don’t harbor ill will for them. They are both well-intentioned, well-educated people who genuinely believed they were doing the right thing. My sister struggled with bullies and academic issues, so my mother pulled her out with dad’s support. She did much better, so naturally my mom assumed that my brother and I (we are close enough in age that our parents treated us as a unit) would reap similar benefits. She pulled both of us out of preschool the following school year.

I was too young to realize it, but that decision sentenced me to a prison I’d never escape. I could never leave home for school, where an outsider could notice my condition and get help. My dysfunctional and emotionally abusive home was my school, and vice versa. Most, if not all, of my memories of home are of constant chaos and screaming matches between any two or more people at a time. Every time I could, I would hide in my bedroom, lock my door, and cry in the closet until I couldn’t breathe. I feel physically sick whenever I think of going back there.

I spent all day, every day, in that home, leaving only for weekly Sunday services or for pre-approved, homeschool-only activities. My mother was obsessed with treating my brother and I the same because she assumed (falsely) that I was also autistic; this obsession only worsened after my sister left for college. She had us do the same curriculum, go to the same activities, and receive our religious rights of passage together. If I protested, she would guilt me into accepting her way. My mother soon became so distracted with my brother that I had to teach myself everything and my academics stagnated beyond repair, beginning at age eleven (I became suicidal around that same time). My mother blamed me for my “laziness” if I struggled in school, even though it was her idea to push me to do homeschool debate team, which consumed all my time. She then forced me to stay home an extra year while I watched my peers graduate high school. I was essentially gaslit into failure.

How did all of this go under the radar?

Texas is the “Wild, Wild West” of homeschooling, largely because advocacy groups like the Texas Homeschool Coalition and the Home School Legal Defense Association fight like hell to keep it that way. Nevertheless, my parents still worried about CPS taking us away. We were thus told to hide anytime the doorbell rang, and we were not allowed to go outside or leave the house until after around 3 P.M., lest curious outsiders ask if we were in school. Secretly I prayed that someone, anyone with authority would save me.

Nobody ever came.

I believe to this day—as I did in childhood—that I should not have been homeschooled, at least not all the way through high school as I was. That said, if the state had more rigorous measures in place to help students like me, my experience might have been less negative.

These measures, at the very minimum, are necessary where they are not already in place:

1. Require more strict enforcement of curriculum requirements. Parents should annually submit their curriculum for approval, detailing specific subjects and textbooks, to ensure that their plans align with minimum standards. Parents must also comply with regular standardized tests administered by a qualified third party. If students show substandard progress, they must receive further evaluation and assistance; parents may face temporary probation, or lose their license to homeschool if they refuse to comply.

2. Require comprehensive criminal background checks of anyone requesting permission to homeschool. If one or both parents have a criminal record (e.g., felonies, substance abuse, or any child abuse/neglect), their files must undergo further review and authorities might visit the home to make sure homeschooling is not being used as a means to hide abuse or dysfunction.

3. Require that professionals privately interview children on a regular basis about their experiences and about whether they consent to homeschooling. Parents don’t have to live with the consequences of homeschooling for the rest of their lives, but their children do. What I ached for most as a child and adolescent was a chance to privately go to a third party and tell them how trapped I felt and how I wanted to go to school outside the house like a normal child. Professionals must look for explicit, affirmative, and voluntary verbal consent from the child, following the same standards we expect of sexual consent.

I wasn’t fully aware of my support for homeschool oversight until I started college, where most of my peers came from public or private school and were immensely successful. Many were valedictorians who enjoyed all the major rites of passage like prom and graduation. They had AP credits that gave them the freedom I could only dream about. They had extensive lab science and mathematics that empowered them to pursue their own true dreams, not just whatever their parents forcefully pigeonholed them into. They participated in real-world extracurriculars that my parents prohibited. The more of them I met, the more I realized how thoroughly alienated I was from everyone around me.

I don’t live in that tower anymore, but it follows me everywhere I go. No matter how far I progress in my post-secondary education, I never feel like I’ve made up for the education I missed out on as a child. No matter how much I break away from my painful past—moving far from home, shearing off my once Rapunzel-length hair, or questioning ideas I once blindly parroted—I never feel like I’ve escaped. I will always be the sheltered, under-educated child that most people pitied and few people believed in … because the tower of emotional abuse in which I grew up now lives inside me and haunts my every thought. No child should suffer that.


Joan was homeschooled in Texas in the 2000s and early 2010s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.

Homeschool Advocates Support WV College Access Bill

For Immediate Release: Homeschooled students do not need barriers to college attendance

02/03/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is supporting House Bill 2034, which would help ensure that homeschooled students have the same access to college as other students. “A growing body data suggests that homeschooled students may attend college at a lower rate than other students,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, CRHE’s executive director. “We support efforts to make the college enrollment process as accessible as possible to homeschool graduates.” 

HB 2034 would prevent colleges and universities from mandating potentially onerous alternative testing for homeschool graduates. Homeschool graduates would still be required to submit SAT or ACT scores like other students. A 2003 study by researcher Joseph Richard Barno found that while admissions officers place less weight on homeschooled students’ diplomas and transcripts, likely because these documents are typically created by homeschooling parents, they placed more weight on SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and other materials. 

Coleman points with concern to data from Kentucky and Virginia that suggests that homeschool graduates may attend college at as little as half the rate as other high school graduates. “Placing additional barriers in the way of homeschool graduates only worsens the barriers these students clearly already face,” says Coleman. “College should be made as accessible as possible.” 

CRHE also encourages school districts to make ACT and SAT testing available to homeschooled students and supports policies that allow homeschooled students to earn college credits while still in high school. Coleman notes that earning college credit through taking community college classes, AP tests, and other avenues can help a homeschool graduate be competitive when applying for college. “College attendance remains an important gateway to the middle class,” notes Coleman. “This avenue should be available to every student.” 

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. 

Homeschool Advocates Urge Indiana Lawmakers to Pass SB 428

For Immediate Release: Better data collection would help protect vulnerable children

02/04/2020—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging Indiana lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 428, which would require the Department of Child Services to include information on children who receive home instruction in its annual child fatality review report. 

“We founded CRHE due in part to concerns about the increasing number of stories we heard about severe and fatal abuse of homeschooled children,” says Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “We have always emphasized the importance of collecting data on fatalities in homeschool settings.” Coleman says efforts to better protect and support homeschooled children are often stymied by a lack of quality data on homeschooled children and their wellbeing. In Indiana, parents who homeschool their children are not required to notify either local or state education officials. No state currently reports information on educational method in its statistics on child abuse. This bill would make Indiana a leader in this regard.

CRHE maintains Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, a database of severe and fatal cases of abuse or neglect in homeschool settings, including multiple cases in Indiana. One case that drew attention was that of Christian Choate, who was starved to death in 2009 at age thirteen, after spending years living in a dog cage. Two fatal cases occurred in the past year: 9-year-old Edward Posso died in Bloomington last May, and 10-year-old Skylea Carmack died in Gas City in August. Both children were homeschooled, and both were tortured by their parents. 

A growing body of research suggests that homeschooling offers abusive and negligent parents a way to isolate, neglect, and mistreat children without detection. 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. (Another 29% were never enrolled in school). In 2018, the Office of the Child Advocate of 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. 90% of these cases involved founded or multiple reports. 

“Better data collection is crucial to preventing abusive parents from exploiting the homeschooling law to isolate children and hide abuse,” says Coleman. “We urge Indiana lawmakers to take a stand for vulnerable children by passing Senate Bill 428.” 

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.

Homeschool Advocates Urge WV Lawmakers to Pass Raylee’s Law

For Immediate Release: Raylee’s Law would protect vulnerable children from falling through the cracks

02/03/2019—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children, is urging lawmakers to support “Raylee’s Law,” also known as House Bill 4440. “Raylee’s Law creates critical protections for vulnerable children,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE, which was founded by homeschool alumni in 2013. “Abusive parents should not be able to exploit the homeschooling law by using it to conceal child abuse.” 

House Bill 4440 would prevent parents from withdrawing a child from school to homeschool them when there is a pending child abuse or neglect investigation, and when a parent has been convicted of domestic violence or child abuse or neglect. “We are working with lawmakers and speaking with homeschooling parents in West Virginia to ensure that the state’s homeschool statute supports West Virginia’s homeschooling families and vulnerable children alike,” said Coleman. “We are grateful to Del. Fluharty for taking bold action to protect vulnerable children in West Virginia.” 

Raylee’s Law is named after Raylee Browning of Oak Hill, West Virginia, who died of severe abuse and neglect in 2018. She was 8 years old. Raylee’s father exploited the homeschool statute to isolate her from contact with mandatory reporters. Raylee was brutally tortured and died of sepsis. According to CRHE, which maintains a database of severe and fatal child abuse cases in homeschool settings, cases like Raylee’s are far too common. “When abusive parents realize they can avoid reports from teachers and other school personnel by withdrawing their children from school under the homeschooling statute, children like Raylee pay the ultimate price,” said Coleman. 

A study published by the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate in 2018 found 31% of children withdrawn from school to be homeschooled lived in families with founded or multiple child abuse or neglect reports. 47% of school-age victims examined in a 2014 study of child torture were removed from school to be homeschooled. (Another 29% were never enrolled in school.) Researchers noted how in these cases, the homeschooling statutes were being deliberately abused “to further isolate the child.”

CRHE has long recommended preventing parents who have been convicted of violent crimes or crimes against children from taking advantage of homeschooling laws. Only one state, Pennsylvania, currently has such a provision on the books, and Coleman says lawmakers in a growing number of states are becoming aware of this problem. “By passing Raylee’s Law, lawmakers in West Virginia have the opportunity to provide leadership in this area,” she said. 

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. 

info@responsiblehomeschooling.org
(617)765-7096
PO Box 190174 Roxbury, MA 02119
https://responsiblehomeschooling.org

Sarah: “The school never did anything to enforce their regulations”

When I was growing up, I was badly abused by my parents, to the extent that it meets the current definition of intrafamilial child torture. Solitary confinement (being locked in my room for days or weeks at a time) was a significant part of my torture, and when I was locked in my room I had inconsistent access to food, water, and bathroom. I also endured beatings that were planned and systematic, and sometimes had religious components (father telling me I was possessed with a demon, and screaming “OUT Satan!” while beating me). I was also sexually abused.

During a few times of solitary confinement, or when I had bruises or marks on me, I would be kept home from school, and my father would tell the school I was “out sick” indefinitely. When the school would not accept this and demanded a letter from a doctor, my father would then say he was homeschooling me. The school would give him instructions for proving that he was homeschooling me, but he never complied with any of the instructions and the school never did anything to enforce their regulations. No one ever came to check on my safety or well-bring, and no one ever came to see if I was being taught at home. My father actually never taught me anything when I was home, I was simply denied an education.

When I was 16, my father became enraged and jealous when he thought I had become sexually active for the first time. He kept me home for the entire semester, and I had to be in the same room with him, with eyes on me at all times, and was told I could not leave the house or be unsupervised until I turned 18. I faced severe psychological abuse during this time, including spurning, isolating, denying emotional responsiveness, making threats of physical and sexual harm to me, and of course educational neglect. He told my high school that he was homeschooling me for the rest of 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. He was again told to turn in forms to demonstrate his homeschooling plan. Months passed and the school did nothing to enforce this, no one ever came to check on me or help me, and I was never taught a thing while at home. With two weeks left in the semester, the school threatened to call Child Protective Services (CPS) if he did not either turn in homeschooling forms or send me back to school. So he sent me back to school for the last week of the semester, and I was issued an “F” for every single class since I had turned in no assignments for the last 5 months.

I felt so betrayed by my school—they were the ones who never enforced the homeschooling regs, they are the ones who never called CPS when I disappeared for 5 months, and they punished me with six “F”s for having survived and endured unbearable child abuse. How would I ever get into college with six “F”s?! How would I ever graduate on time with no credits for the whole semester?! From my dad, I expected evil, but from my school, who had known me all my life growing up in a small town, how could they do this to me? They let my dad use fake homeschooling to cover up abuse.

I was eventually rescued and removed by CPS over the summer and placed in foster care. But I could have been rescued months earlier, had the school done their job to oversee claims of homeschooling. I believe my father should have been given no more than 30 days to turn in proof of homeschooling- not 5 months, and then in the end never required to prove what happened during those 5 months at all. The school district should have followed their own policies, and there should have been oversight from the state department of education to make sure school districts are following the law. There should also have been regular welfare checks where a professional social worker came to my home to see what was going on and interviewed me about whether I was safe at home, and if I was actually being homeschooled.

It was too easy for my father to use homeschooling to cover up child abuse. Oversight should be dramatically increased, to make it very hard for abusive parents to hide behind claims of homeschooling.


Sarah was “homeschooled” in Ohio in the 1990s. For additional thoughts and experiences from other homeschool alumni, see our Testimonials page.