March 7, 2016

KSHB-TV Should Stick to Facts, not Speculations


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“We have no evidence that children who are homeschooled are more likely to be abused or neglected,” said Martha Gershun, executive director of court-appointed special advocates in Johnson County, Kansas, as quoted in a recent KMBC-TV story about a shocking case of child abuse in Wyandotte County. And she ought to know.

SCOTT WOODRUFF Contact attorney for Kansas

Child abuse and neglect are serious issues with far-reaching consequences. But in light of what Martha Gershun said, why does KSHB-TV keep writing headlines that tell the public that homeschooling is the problem? “Missing boy homeschooled in state with loose regulations,” they wrote. And “Nobody wants to stop it when abusive parents use homeschooling to sneak under the radar.”

Perhaps KSHB has neglected to do normal journalistic fact-checking. If they had, they would have found no empirical research saying that homeschool parents neglect and abuse their children more often than others.

Experts in the field have worked to identify common risk factors in child abuse and neglect. For example, the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information published a list of 35 common risk factors. “Poor schools” was listed as a risk factor. Homeschooling was not.

Effectively addressing child abuse and neglect means focusing community resources on proven risk factors. Sadly, KSHB is doing children a disservice by instead focusing the attention of the public on homeschooling.

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse Neglect and Fatalities issued a draft report recently saying that one of the barriers to reducing child abuse and neglect is the media’s bad habit of dramatizing the most gut-wrenching stories but ignoring the fact that four children die each day in America of abuse and neglect. KSHB is proof that this concern is quite valid.