In Washington, D.C., authorities found the bodies of children of a mother who had withdrawn her children from school in early 2007.
SE Woman says four daughters were ‘possessed’ — Girls might have died in May, 11 January 2008, Washington Post, Washington, D. C.
A Southeast Washington woman accused of killing her four daughters told police that they were “possessed by demons” and that they had been dead for at least four months before marshals found their bodies, according to police and charging papers filed yesterday.
Because of the deaths, people are asking why no one followed up on the children after they stopped going to school. The line of thinking seems to be that if the family had, … what? — Been checked on? Been stopped from using homeschooling as a way to avoid sending the girls to school? Been supervised? — that the mother would have been stopped from killing the girls. If this is true, how much surveillance would have been needed?
- “Some who knew the family said that troubles spiraled in Februarywhen Nathaniel Fogle Jr., the father of two of the girls, died of cancer.”
- “The other girls attended Meridian Public Charter School in Northwest Washington until March, when Jacks withdrew them, saying she planned to home-school them.”
- D.C. Child and Family Services received a report about the family in April, … investigators went to the residence three times, once accompanied by D.C. police …”
- “In June, D.C. officials contacted their counterparts in Charles County, where Jacks has relatives, saying they had information that the family was moving there.”
- “The last time Richardson saw Jacks was sometime in July, she said. She handed her the mail through the door; Jacks did not invite her in.”
- “No one responded to notices to move, and a judge ordered the evictions in October.”
- “School officials apparently detected no problems. The oldest girl, a student at Booker T. Washington Public Charter School, stopped attending classes months ago.”
A CNN report includes other information:
- “Mindy Good, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Child and Family Services agency, said the agency received a report about a family at the home in April … ‘We made several attempts to make contact with these people. We were unable to have any face-to-face contact with them,’ Good said. ‘On the last attempt (in early May), it appeared they were no longer living at the address.’ Investigators later found a new address for the family in Maryland and alerted authorities there …”
The clincher about the case, from a homeschooling perspective, is the viewpoint that homeschooling itself needs to be more closely controlled.
Washington Post: “If parents opt to home-school a student, there “is no way of following” them, she said. [weird quotation marks in original]
CNN: “‘It is probably too easy in this system to not track young people from public schools to charter schools to home schooling,’ said Fenty, whose administration recently began overseeing the troubled school system.”
Although there is no homeschool-specific law or regulation in the Washington, D.C. code, there is language that allows officials to check on children enrolled in any school.
District of Columbia Code, Division VI, Title 38, Public Education, Compulsory Schooling, School Attendance, Â§ 38-203. Enforcement; penalties [Formerly Â§ 31-403].
(a) An accurate daily record of the attendance of all minors covered by Â§ 38-202 and this section shall be kept by the teachers of each public, independent, private, or parochial school and by every teacher who gives instruction privately. These records shall be open for inspection at all times by the Board, the Superintendent of Schools, school attendance officers, or other persons authorized to enforce this subchapter.
If there was cause for concern at the time, a law was already on the books for at least seeing the records. I presume that if the result of the records check was unsatisfactory that the officials could have pressed for details, or an inspection of the premises.
Child services investigators did try to talk to the mother, but were unsuccessful. It is unlikely that the school would have had greater success over the summer vacation when all the children are out of school.
If complaints are made about a family, it is the responsibility of the local child welfare service to investigate. If no complaints are made, then investigating a family merely for homeschooling is a situation in which you are ‘guilty until enough people are convinced of your innocence.’
Is the Jacks event a tragedy? Oh, yes.
It is a tragedy that Banita Jacks had her first child at 16.
It is a tragedy that she couldn’t get child support from the fathers of two of her children.
It is a tragedy that investigators couldn’t either make contact or complete their investigations.
It is a tragedy that Ms. Jacks’ children were unable to escape from the house as their mother descended further into madness.
It is a tragedy that the parents of the friends of Ms. Jacks’ children weren’t alarmed by the change in their children’s friendships.
And it is horrifying that someone, most likely Banita Jacks, killed Brittany, Tatianna, N’Kiah and Aja, especially in the same general neighborhood as St. Elizabeths Hospital, “the only federal government hospital in the United States for the care and treatment of persons with Mental disorders.”
Most of those factors preceded the homeschooling. To lay the responsibility for the murders at the door of homeschooling in the throes of moral panic is to ignore the seventeen years that led up to the final hours of Brittany, Tatianna, N’Kiah and Aja.
posted by Valerie