And the governmental systems’ failure along with Michaela Watkins’ family failings to nurture and protect her were not related to homeschooling. The quotes from a Kentucky education bureaucrat related to this are a typical and cheap shot target.
The death of young Michaela Watkins in Kentucky would never happen in a perfect world. And let’s consider the power given to one agency to hand an innocent and powerless child over to people with a history of abuse. And as related by her grandmother, her parents decided this beautiful little child was worth the $600/month disability check they received. The parents have been accused and not convicted, so one can hope the facts come out and justice will be done. However, the father was previously convicted of domestic abuse and has already confirmed that Michaela should have been taken to the hospital, as his report pertaining to her death was that she ‘had been burned in the bathtub and then fell down the stairs’.
From the Lexington Herald-Leader on March 14, 2007, ‘The system failed this little girl’ Police, social workers visited her home:
Grieving relatives said yesterday that social workers and police had visited the home to investigate complaints against her father and stepmother, Patrick and Joy Watkins, now charged with criminal abuse in her death. They and an advocate for Kentucky children say the Watkinses should never have gotten custody of Michaela to begin with.
That particular agency’s decision had nothing to do with homeschooling, of course. And this little girl could still smile for a school picture last fall. Children are ever-hopeful in their hearts. Despite not being protected or served well by the adults in her life, as I read it. Possibly, some of those adults being school staff who saw her almost every day until this year. It’s reported that none of them saw what Michaela’s grandmother saw or the evidence of beatings.
Despite witnessing repeated acts of violence, Betty Stokley said she did not notify social workers because she knew Patrick Watkins would cut her out of her grandchildren’s lives. “I couldn’t call social workers — I wanted to keep the kids in my life,” she said. “I thought this way I could keep a close eye on them. I don’t know, maybe I should have done more.”
As the spin begins, Diane Akers, Clark County’s public school director of pupil personnel, tried some amazing, but unfortunately typical twisting and turning to initiate change in “Kentucky’s lax state laws governing home-schooling “. Here’s part of her commentary in the Herald-Leader:
Michaela’s death should be a wake-up call to lawmakers to strengthen the law, she said.”It’s a tragic situation,” Akers said. “We are endangering a lot of children when we don’t have some way” of determining how they are being educated.
Akers said that under state law, the Watkinses did not have to tell her why they were taking Michaela out of the school system, or give her details of the curriculum they intended to follow.
Akers said she has many concerns that among the 230 students being home-schooled in Clark County, several parents aren’t providing adequate instruction. And she has always worried that some parents might be removing children to avoid scrutiny by school officials.
Would she assume that Patrick and Joy Watkins were going to relate to school officials that they planned on beating her to death? If people have evil in their minds, they don’t let laws such as not committing homicide stop them.
Unrelated to Michaela’s death, but hammering home the offense homeschoolers can assert to the vast majority of these charges is that many parents homeschool to avoid abuse within the schools. We did. And one recent incident(s) in my central Illinois area is of a 26 year old teacher charged with abusing 11 children (6, 7 and 8 year olds). He was shuffled ‘around the school system’ in 2 different towns an hour apart. Shhh……his legal spokespeople say to keep an open mind. That’s their job.
And apparently Akers’ tax funded job to pursue her agenda, is not to address the real reasons for the terrible tragedy of Michaela’s death, but to push for more public school oversight of homeschooling families in Clark County, Kentucky.
Charol Shakeshaft wrote a report about the potential of 4.5 million students being subjected to sexual misconduct by school employees, from inappropriate comments or looks to physical abuse:
U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, Washington, D.C. 2004.
And here is the response to that report from the teacher unions as reported in the National School Board Association’s Legal Clips in July of 2004:
Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) take issue with the report. “Lumping harassment together with serious sexual misconduct does more harm than good by creating unjustified alarm and undermining confidence in public schools,” says Michael Pons of NEA. “Statistically, public schools remain one of the safest places for children to be.
“Safest places for children to be“……
Even Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok had reservations about Ms. Shakeshaft’s conclusions, too; as he felt the “broad set of inappropriate behaviors” didn’t fit the report called for by NCLB mandates. In the ‘eduspeak’/bureaucratic manner of speaking “federal law assigns a separate and specific meaning to the term “sexual abuse“. Ahhh, well, in the world of family accountability that often includes a homeschooling life; thankfully, abuse is called just plain abuse. Abuse of authority can be a significant factor outside the family. At least Mr. Richart called it the way it is:
“Somebody dropped the ball,” said Richart, executive director of the Louisville-based Institute on Children, Youth and Families. “I would go so far as to say that the death could have been prevented had the cabinet been diligent in investigating.”
Posted by Susan Ryan