Some Fallacies Rebutted

In this post we respond to some misunderstandings about both the scope of our database and our purpose in founding this site.

Here is an email we recently recieved from a reader:

This is a reply to an article I read on The Daily Beast entitled “The sinister side of homeschooling”. The article, which references your groups’ website, has nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with child abuse.

I sympathize with your efforts to bring to light the travesties of abusive parents and I am enraged at the parents who do such things. However, trying to bring more regulation on individuals and their families is not the answer. This mentality only leads to eventual tyranny and government involvement in every aspect of our lives. All my issues with Big Government aside, I believe your group to be genuine as advocates against child abuse. But, the difference in child abuse and homeschooling child abuse is astronomical.

Let’s look at real numbers. The reports on your website list 309 abused children (by my count) since 1986 who happened to have been homeschooled. By the way this number is collective since 1986. There are 1.7 million homeschooled children in this country today. So, if we assume there was one homeschooled child in 1986 then we get a yearly average of 62,960 being homeschooled since 1986. The average abused homeschooling child since 1986 is 11.44 per year (reportedly). That means 1 in 5,500 homeschooled children have been reportedly abused per year (in the timeline of your websites reports). There are 73.7 million children in this country and each year 6 million children are reportedly abused (only 12 are being homeschooled). That means 1 in 12 children are being abused in this country every year. That number is disturbing, even more disturbing that the 1 in 5,500 homeschooled children who are reportedly abused. The reality is children in public schools are more likely to be abused than that of homeschooled children. It seems to me there should be legislation against sending children to public schools.

Targeting homeschooling with regulations is not the answer to child abuse and it will only lead to infringement of our freedoms. Good and loving parents who don’t abuse their children which is the vast majority (99.9998183%) will pay dearly for the crimes of others if regulations to evaluate homeschooled children are implemented. Where I live, there are many public school teachers who for some reason despise homeschooling, I can only assume why. Every year in our state there is legislation to ban homeschooling. The threats to homeschooling are imamate and efforts like the one your group engages in is detrimental to our freedoms and gives fuel to adenda driven teachers, teachers unions and legislative advocates against homeschooling. Regulations will lead to monitoring the personal lives of homeschooling families but not public school families which are 524,475 times more likely to abuse their children in a given year. To induce regulations on homeschooling based on child abuse is like suspecting all shoppers of being shoplifters and requiring them to empty their pockets before they leave the store.

Please note that I am against any and all child abuse of homeschooled children as well as public school children and this is not an attempt to support the actions of abusive homeschooling parents. I am only advocating homeschooling freedoms and this means limited or no regulations. Preserving these freedoms is not at the expense of the children who have been abused while homeschooling. If stopping child abuse is your groups position you should want nothing, including regulations, to stand in the way of homeschooling since homeschooling diminished the potential of child abuse.

We do not want to do away with homeschooling, and we recognize that a heavy level of regulation (for example, dictating what curriculum may be used) would do away with the flexibility and chance for innovation that homeschooling offers. We would simply like to see convicted child abusers or sex offenders barred from homeschooling, light monitoring when families with a previous history of neglect or abuse begin homeschooling, and yearly academic assessments (via standardized test or portfolio review) to ensure that families who claim to be homeschooling are not doing so to hide abuse rather than to educate their children. We do not believe these basic requirements would “stand in the way of homeschooling” for any parents but those who are abusive and neglectful. Further, we would point out to our reader that abusive parents are currently abusing that freedom to homeschool he so values to harm, torture, and abuse.

Our reader’s claim that homeschooling diminishes the potential for child abuse is based on some faulty numbers and assumptions. First, the child abuse statistics he refers to include all child abuse reports called in about all children of all ages. We here at Homeschooling’s Invisible Children seek only to list the most egregious cases and we only focus on homeschooled children of school age. Further, it should be obvious that there will be more cases of child abuse and child death due to child abuse or neglect among students who attend public school than among students who are homeschooled. Why? Because public schooled students vastly outnumber homeschooled students. Finally, our database is not a complete listing of cases, and we do not claim it to be so.

Our reader suggests that if we are concerned with child abuse we should try to help abused children in general rather than focusing on children abused in homeschooling families. However, we feel this would be like asking Catholics urging the church’s hierarchy to put into place new procedures to prevent sexual abuse by Catholic priests why they are focusing only on sexual abuse in Catholicism specifically and not on sexual abuse more broadly. We were homeschooled, and feel very strongly about working to clean things up in our own backyard, so to speak. Further, there are currently groups already in existence working to reduce child abuse more broadly, but no group focusing specifically about the way homeschooling can be used to cover up and hide abuse and neglect. We hope to fill that gap.

Probably the most important point to make here, though, is that this database is not in any way a complete listing of abused or neglected homeschooled children. We do not at this point in time have access to the data that would allow us to make it complete. Instead, we rely on google searches and google news archive. The cases we list are only the most egregious, only the ones picked up by the papers, and only the ones we have so far found. We find new cases regularly, often by following a rabbit trail across the internet until we come to a name we have not heard before. Further, we have a whole list of links for stories where homeschooling appears to be involved—the child was school aged but not in school—but where we haven’t been able to conclusively verify that. This database is incredibly incomplete. But that’s okay. We’re still building it, and our goal has never been to include every case but rather bring attention to the problem of abusive parents using homeschooling as a cover for child abuse and neglect.

We recently took a look at the Every Child Matters Education Fund’s We Can Do Better brief, published in 2010, and were surprised to find that we immediately recognized 3 of the 48 deceased children whose pictures cover the document’s first page. Each child’s story was detailed briefly in the following pages, and a little googling revealed that a fourth child was also homeschooled—a child who died in 2007 and is not yet in our database. In other words, 4 of the 48 deceased children profiled, or 1 in 12, was homeschooled. However, only 19 of the 48 children were school-aged, meaning that if we confine our view to school-aged children profiled in the brief we find that 4 out of 19, or 21%, were homeschooled, even though during the period covered only between 2% and 3% of all school-aged children were homeschooled. We have no idea how Every Child Matters Education Fund decided which children to profile (and you can rule out anti-homeschool bias, because the brief doesn’t mention that any of these children had been homeschooled). It could be that the sampling they chose to profile by some fluke contained a higher rate of homeschool deaths than the average. Or, it could be that, if we had access to more complete information, we would find that homeschooled children are actually significantly more likely to die of child abuse or neglect than are other school-aged children.

Our reader also asserted that the Daily Beast article that referenced our site “had nothing to do with homeschooling and everything to do with child abuse.” This is simply not true. In the cases we list, the children were homeschooled. This is factual. And in every case, the fact that the children were homeschooled meant that certain avenues for help were cut off to them. There was no one to notice bruises or hunger. There was no trusted teacher to go to talk to. I’m not saying that being in school makes a child immune to parental abuse—it clearly doesn’t. However, being homeschooled puts an abused child completely at the mercy of her parents in a way that children who attend school are not. And that is why, quite simply, we don’t think these abuse cases can be discussed apart from homeschooling.

Lastly, we simply ask: How many children must die before homeschool parents like our reader will get behind some basic, common sense protections for abused homeschooled children? We are not talking about banning homeschooling. Instead, we are talking about simple measures that have the potential to catch and stop at least some of the abuse that we know does go on under the cover of homeschooling. Is there some magic number of dead that would be enough? Does the abuse that we outline and detail on this site somehow matter less than our reader’s desire to homeschool without any oversight whatsoever?