A news outlet summarized a talk by “Home Education Coordinator Robert Schiavone” to the League of Women Voters in St. Johns, Florida, by emphasizing the need for ‘oversight’ of homeschooling families in order to prevent mistreatment of children by their parents.
LWV Learns Undetected Child Abuse Possible Among Home Schoolers, 22 March 2008, My St. Johns Sun, St. Johns, Florida
As the popularity of home schooling grows, so does the question of undetected child abuse, Home Education Coordinator Robert Schiavone told the League of Women Voters at their March meeting in St. Augustine Beach City Hall.
Apparently, that’s not what was heard by one in-house reporter for League.
LWV Jacksonville, April 2008 newsletter, page 3
Our speaker for March was Bob Schiavone, Student Services Coordinatorfor St. Johns County. He discussed the Home School program and what services they receive from the County and State. There are about 900 County students in this program. Each household is considered a private school and there are strict state laws limiting control by the local board. The students are evaluated once a year. They are not required to take the FCAT tests and do not receive a regular diploma. Some of the reasons for home schooling are health problems, problems in school, and religious reasons. Also many of the home schoolers feel there is too much government control. Mr. Schiavone believes that most home schooled students do well scholastically.
I, for one, am happy that there is a discrepancy in the reports because when laws affecting homeschooling come up for approval or disapproval, most homeschooling parents would rather have voters — women or men — who understand something about homeschooling writing to their elected representatives about it. Unfortunately, there are probably more readers of the news outlets that ran the ‘abuse version’ than there were women in attendance at the LWV meeting, or readers of the LWV newsletter. LWV Learns Undetected Child Abuse Possible Among Home Schoolers and Risks, benefits of home schooling discussed
The ‘abuse version’ of the talk detailed various concerns Mr. Schiavone has about homeschooling:
- undetected child abuse
- an increasingly popular system that grants enormous parental independence
- “The family can move and our office doesn’t know where the child has gone,”
- Schiavone said home school parents have an exceptionally strong lobby that wants to retain freedom. Their privacy is protected by federal laws.
The outlook Mr. Schiavone presents appears to be that the school system is between children and their parents, and that schools act as advocates for the children.
Undetected Child Abuse
The “undetected child abuse” that is such a concern is not a part of homeschooling. The main point of homeschooling is not to hide children away, even if parents want certain aspects of mainstream society diminished in effect. The point of homeschooling is to give the children an education. On email lists, or at support group meetings, I have never heard a parent ask, “Where can I live so that my children meet no one.” (which doesn’t mean that no one has ever considered this, only that I have never heard it) I have heard years’-worth of requests for “What is the best curriculum?” In my experience, education is the point.
Despite the indications of the apparent majority of parents who turn to homeschooling, homeschooling parents have been guilty of child mistreatment, sometimes appallingly so. Still, are these parents the bulk of the iceberg of “undetected child abuse?” National statistics do not support that viewpoint.
The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reports that:
Studies in Colorado and North Carolina have estimated that as many as 50 to 60 percentof child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect are not recorded as such (Crume, DiGuiseppi, Byers, Sirotnak, Garrett, 2002; Herman-Giddens, Brown, Verbiest, Carlson, Hooten, et al., 1999). [emphasis in original]
These children are not all homeschooled.
A chart provided by NCANDS shows that even if some homeschooled children are at risk, they are not in the ‘high risk’ range.
Over 80% of child abuse fatalities happen to children who are below the age of compulsory school attendance. If the concern is for the safety of all children, and not just homeschooled children, perhaps children from birth to three years of age should be the ones going to ‘school’ for oversight purposes.
If parents have raised their children up to the age of compulsory school attendance without any problems, then the probability is that they will continue without problems once the children are school age, especially since homeschoolers constitute only about 2% of the school age group.
A System that Grants Enormous Parental Independence
First off, homeschooling is not a “system.” It may look like a system to someone who isn’t ‘in’ it and who is predisposed to think only of systems, and some people may want their program to look like The System, but there is no formal organization to it all. (yet) Families either choose to do it, or not, and even after choosing to do it, there is nothing to keep them in the loop.
Secondly, homeschooling does not “grant” parental independence. All parents, whether homeschooling or not, have this “enormous” independence of action as an inherent right and responsibility as the parents of their children.
Families Can Move At Will
Well, gee whiz. Whodathunk. The citizens of the United States have freedom of movement.
I hope that the American school system’s purpose is to educate children, and not to function as a de facto surveillance system of families with school age children. The records that schools keep on children ought to be a synopsis of the child’s school career so that future instructors have an idea of what the child has already been taught so that they don’t put the kid through the same thing all over again, or perhaps omit something crucial. Records are useful in case a child moves to another place. Schools ought to maintain records for the benefit of a child and his family, not as a confidential internal tracking system although when I withdrew my children from school, the (friendly) principal joked (?) that it probably wouldn’t do her any good to seal the records in the envelope with tape. I didn’t laugh out loud, but I did smile and shake my head ‘no.’
And, by the by, I have experienced living in a country or two in which personal movement is tracked. I have been registered with local police departments and other government entities so that my whereabouts, and the whereabouts of my unenrolled children, were known. I was asked about their lack of enrollement.
The Strong Homeschool Lobby
Again — oh, my, goodness. Citizens are standing up for themselves? What is this world coming to? And homeschoolers’ privacy is protected by federal laws? Goodness gracious.
In truth, there is no organized ‘homeschool lobby’ as industry-funded advocates whose job is to befriend politicians. Yes, the HSLDA, a membership organization, puts together homeschool lobbying efforts, and does (or did) fund specific politicians just like other lobbyists. Howerver, homeschooling citizens themselves do the majority of ‘lobbying,’ especially at the local level. This is not lobbying on behalf of someone else; this is grassroots petitioning of public representatives by the people they represent. There is a difference.
And as for the protected privacy, again, the federal laws that protect homeschooling families protect everyone. There are no ‘federal homeschool privacy laws’ (or at least I hope that didn’t fly under my radar).
The canary in the family section of the civil rights mine is homeschooling. If legislatures pass laws to specifically restrict ‘homeschooling freedoms,’ then the identical freedoms of non-homeschooling parents will be equally affected.
The articles end with:
“We have to be careful of the rights of parents,” [Schiavone] noted. “Personally I’d like to have more time to work and contact, but by law I can’t.”
Damn straight. The thing for non-homeschoolers to keep in mind is that if the winds of change blow educational trends in a direction that they object to, will they or won’t they also want the right to educate their children as they see fit? The protection of Constitutional rights is especially important when the people insisting on their rights are the people with whom you do not agree. That is one of the blessings of liberty.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.