We include all school aged children (ages 5 to 17) who were the victims of severe or fatal abuse or neglect who were legally homeschooled or whose parents, guardians, or captors claimed to be homeschooling them at the time an incident occurred. We include only cases where the abuse has been publicly documented in news reports, court filings, or other sources.
In states that do not have any oversight or requirements for homeschooling, merely claiming to homeschool is all it takes to be considered a home educator in the eyes of the law, whether or not education is taking place. We agree that parents who do not educate their children should not be permitted to homeschool, but in the current deregulated legal climate this is not the case.
When we first created our database, we made a conscious decision to include families that claimed to be homeschooling but were not following their state’s homeschool requirements. One reason for this decision is that in many states lack of enforcement allows parents to homeschool “under the radar,” and that lack of enforcement is a problem that needs addressing. We hope to shed light on that problem. A second reason is that homeschooling still serves to shield abuse and neglect in these families because friends and neighbors who might otherwise have called the family in for truancy will be less likely to do so if the family claims to be homeschooling.
We include every child abuse or neglect death of a homeschooled child regardless of how this death took place. Our hope is to create a comprehensive database of homeschooling fatalities in an effort to locate themes and work toward solutions. In order to effectively analyze the data, we must include all the cases.
Homeschooling has on numerous occasions been used by kidnappers to help hide their abductions. By claiming to homeschool, abductors do not have to face the choice between enrolling a kidnapped child in school and worrying that someone will notice a child not in school and report them as truant.
Homeschooling does not make parents abusive. However, homeschooling allows abusive parents to isolate their children and remove them from contact with mandatory reporters. In other words, homeschooling can serve as a powerful tool in the hand of an abusive parent. Numerous young adults who were homeschooled for part of their upbringing and attended public school for part of their upbringing have reported that their parents’ abuse was worse when they were homeschooled, as there was nothing to act as a check on their parents’ abuse. While children who were abused in homeschool settings would have had abusive parents even if they had attended public school, homeschooling removes safeguards that might otherwise have served to protect the child and prevent the abuse from intensifying. As a result, abuse of homeschooled children is often more severe than abuse of children who attend school.
While we support efforts to detect and prevent child abuse among children of every age, our focus is on children who are homeschooled. Homeschooled children are removed from much of the system in place to protect school-aged children from abuse and neglect. This makes their situation different from that of children under age five. Abusive parents sometimes use homeschooling as a tool to isolate their children and conceal their abuse, and abusive parents who homeschool are able to intensify their abuse without as much concern about detection.
It may seem odd to include homeschool alumni who perpetrate violence in a database originally designed for homeschooled children who were victims of violence, but in many cases these individuals, too, are victims. Some suffered the repercussions of abusive or isolated childhoods; others had mental health conditions that went unrecognized because of a lack of access to professionals. Some had parents who meant well but were unprepared to handle their child’s additional needs or violent tendencies on their own. We include these cases to encourage reflection on how to prevent such cases from occurring in the future. We keep these cases separate under their own category, and they therefore are not listed in our main database.