After police found 13 siblings allegedly held captive in a Southern California home and younger children not noticed because they were home-schooled, the debate is continuing with regard to the types of regulations that govern parents who home-school their children. According to a news report in South Coast Today, the children’s parents allegedly kept them restrained in a filthy home in the city of Perris. Advocates say it’s time to have required medical visits or regular academic evaluations for children who are schooled at home.
A California legislator has proposed mandating yearly walk-throughs of home schools by local or state officials. The Perris case has disgusted and saddened so many people locally and has truly shined a light on the inadequacies of the system and the lack of protections in place to safeguard home-schooled children. The HomeSchool Association of California has however maintained that there is only so much you can do to “prevent evil” and that law-abiding citizens should not have to pay for the actions of a perverse few.
A number of parents, not just here in Southern California but also around the nation, are home-schooling their children for a variety of reasons ranging from religious beliefs to displeasure with public schools. Home-schooled children in the United States have increased from about 15,000 in 1970 to about 2 million today. Home-schooling has also gained wider acceptance as parents have become increasingly dissatisfied with neighborhood schools and have taken matters into their own hands.
There are no federal regulations to monitor home-schooling. So oversight varies significantly from state to state. While states such as Alaska and Idaho have zero regulations, others like Pennsylvania and New York require families to turn in yearly instruction plans to school districts and take standardized tests taken by public school students. California requires home schools to register just as it does private schools. But enforcement is lacking in this state despite existing regulations.
Advocates fear that children will be more isolated in home schools particularly if they are enduring abusive parents. There are additional fears in states that have been loosening government oversight on home schools such as West Virginia. That state in 2016 reduced the number of annual evaluations parents must submit to the local school district. An Arkansas completely eliminated the annual assessment mandate in 2015. So, in these states, parents and guardians have free rein to do as they will. They don’t even have to tell anyone or get permission to school their child at home.
Children are among the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Our rules and regulations must be tailored to protecting children. While a majority of parents who choose to home-school their children may be doing it for the right reason, there may be some cases, as we saw in Perris, where parents may use home-schooling as an excuse to indulge in abusive behavior. These children in Perris were extremely fortunate to be rescued because any lives were lost. But many children are not as lucky. Our Orange County personal injury lawyers hope more is done to protect the rights of children not just here in Southern California, but nationwide.