A persistent legislative effort to address child abuse by restricting homeschooling is expected again this session. Consistent with a nationwide media message, legislators characterize homeschooling as the hiding place for abuse. Yet countering those arguments is not as simple as might be expected because child abuse is so horrible. Arguments in our defense can seem heartless. Yet we must counter them, because these growing (and sometimes subtle) media attacks and bills set dangerous and unfair precedence. And so, once again, we step out onto the ice…
CHEWV believes that it’s clearly God’s plan for parents to raise children. The buck stops with them, not the government. So while crimes should absolutely be appropriately addressed, the crucial role of parents must not be undermined because of a small group of criminals. Instead, criminal parents must be addressed via due process – as required by American values and American law. Neither should anyone consider the educational status of some victims while ignoring it on all others.
So what exactly are we trying to say?
A bill has been introduced in the WV Legislature the past few years that would take away parents’ rights to home educate if there is but an anonymous report of possible abuse or neglect of any sort – without closure of an investigation. This could theoretically be a report from anyone who disagrees with the parents’ decisions and be far removed from what we normally think of as abuse or neglect.
Instead of being based on an accusation, the current homeschool law speaks of “clear and convincing evidence.” If there is clear and convincing evidence of educational neglect, the superintendent not only can, but should, go to the circuit court to preclude homeschooling. But the superintendent can’t go on a whim. Nor on an anonymous report that is unsubstantiated. That’s because Americans have the right to due process.
On the other hand, there have been times when abuse or neglect was suspected by multiple people over multiple years with multiple CPS reports made. Yet, some sort of hitch in the system meant that the child in question remained in the parent’s care until eventually the child died. But the presence of the child in the home because of homeschooling seems far from the issue. This is because without an effective investigation and outcome after CPS reports are made, the child remains in the neglectful home for the majority of each day regardless of educational status, i.e. school students still come home every evening and weekend. Being in public school does not protect the child from being abused. Instead, we must do our best to make CPS investigations as effective as possible, hoping for confirming evidence if there’s actual abuse and subsequent removal of children from dangerous parents/caregivers. Attention to educational status seems a misguided detraction from the much more important issues.
This bill doesn’t actually stop abuse or remove a child from an abusive situation.
We believe that
1. parents should not lose their freedoms because of an allegation. Instead, due process must proceed and accompanying evidence gathered.
2. CPS investigative processes should be addressed to determine how to best identify actual abuse/neglect and remove children who are victims of legitimate abuse from the home entirely – rather than defenseless children being lost in a sea of baseless reports.
3. any proposed laws addressing this topic should attempt to make progress in fixing legitimate systemic problems and improve communication among the involved government entities and employees.
That won’t be as easy as targeting homeschoolers, but it will be much more effective.