CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Homeschool "reformers" may be using concerns about child abuse and educational deprivation to ramp up the pressure for stricter homeschool regulations.
Two law professors, one from Harvard Law School and the other from the College of William and Mary, are convening a by-invitation-only meeting of homeschool reform activists and others with interest in the movement to privately discuss the need for and manner of homeschool "reform."
Scheduled for June 18–19, "The Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform" will focus on "problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling."
The summit is a "heads-up" to homeschool families about the direction of so-called homeschool reform. Just as the abortion movement drove public policy in favor of killing the unborn by focusing on the "hard cases" — for example, the 13-year-old girl raped by her father who now finds herself pregnant — so homeschool reformers will focus on the "problems" promised in the summit's name.
Darren Jones, a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), recently alerted his network to the event. Formed in 1983 in the early days of homeschooling, HSLDA is the premier homeschooling advocacy organization in America. From the beginning, its mission has been to defend families who choose non-traditional educational options in the face of opposition from friends, family, the educational establishment and the state.
Jones told Church Militant the problems of child abuse and educational neglect in connection to homeschooling are not new. He directs people to his organization's website, which specifically addresses child abuse, and acknowledges the phenomenon needs to be addressed: "We talk to our support group leaders about how to recognize abuse cases and tell them to report any problems. We tell them to follow the law and do the report."
Milton Gaither, a historian of education at Messiah College and author of Homeschool: An American History, speculated that the summit would indeed be about increasing regulatory protocols. He told Church Militant that even the number of homeschooled children was unknown, and that with so little information, there is opportunity for abuse.
"It's like what happened in the Catholic Church. Because there was no oversight, children were abused, then it was covered up because of the 'keep it in the family' mentality," Gaither said.
But he doesn't expect the summit to give rise to a movement against homeschool families: "Movements need foot soldiers. The individuals invited to speak at the summit are fairly isolated in their concerns."
Draper Warren, director of admissions for Seton Home Study School told Church Militant he agreed, noting, "The most they can do is make suggestions ... Now, if they were lobbying state legislatures, that would be different."
But Jones disagrees. "Although homeschoolers have been successful in fighting for homeschooling and freedom, there are still opponents," he said.