|The New York Times||November 15, 2003|
Make Home Schooling Safe for Children
The New York Times Editorial
November 15, 2003
When the authorities in a small New Jersey town discovered four starved boys, so frail that they resembled concentration camp victims from World War II, Americans everywhere wondered how their condition had gone unnoticed by people outside their family for so long. Part of the answer was that they had been home-schooled, and New Jersey is one of a number of states that provide no supervision over parents who decide to keep their offspring out of the public and private school systems.
Most teachers would immediately have sounded the alarm had they encountered the harrowingly thin 10-year-old, who weighed only 28 pounds when the police found him. But this child and the two other school-age adoptive siblings never appeared in a classroom. Their adoptive parents said they were home-schooling the children, and New Jersey law does not even require parents to notify the state when they intend to withdraw their children from the public schools.
New Jersey is not alone. Nine states allow parents to remove children from school without reporting that they are doing so. An additional 14 states require home-schoolers to report that they are keeping their children at home, but require very little else. These lax regulations stem in some instances from the old patterns of American farming communities, where parents needed to keep their children around to help with the crops. In some states, the rules remain unchanged because the groups that hold home schooling sacred have political muscle. In others, the desire to save money and avoid responsibility obviously comes into play.
While parents have a right to decide how their children will be educated, the state most certainly has an obligation to ensure that every American child is learning basic skills. The schooling laws fly in the face of compulsory education statutes that have been on the books throughout this country since the early 20th century, not to mention the new national push to raise standards and improve student achievement.
This hands-off approach is especially problematic for disabled children, who are particularly vulnerable to neglect. The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires the states to seek out disabled children to ensure that they get the services and education they need. Under the act, the children in New Jersey were clearly entitled to help. The shock over this case will cause New Jersey to revisit its home-schooling law. States with similar laws should do the same.
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HSLDA Answers New York Times Editorial Nov-18-2003