We looked yesterday at the use in America of 'home education' as a way of concealing the true rate of truancy and dropouts in the Texas school system. I speculated that this sort of thing could become more common here as the numbers of nominally home educated children increase. I want to look now at the extent to which home education might be used as a cover for child abuse and neglect. We shall look at the American example again, because of course home education is far more common and generally accepted in that country.
In Britain, cases where home education is associated with sexual abuse and murder are probably quite rare. When they do come to light, they often make the national headlines. In the USA, where there are far more home educated children, such cases have become commonplace. Here are a few recent examples, chosen more or less at random. The police in Monument, Colorado are hunting for Monique Lynch and Hanif Sims. They began home educating their child in 2008 and then moved house recently, leaving the corpse of their child under the floorboards. Police are still investigating a bizarre cult in Baltimore run by a woman who styled herself 'Queen Antoinette'. The group spent a lot of time reading the Bible and home educating their children, one of whom was starved to death as a punishment. In York, Pennsylvania, a man called Nathaniel Craver also starved his home educated child to death. Paradise, California; Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz beat their adopted 11 year old daughter to death. They have nine home educated children, three of them adopted. Home educated Jeanette Marples, aged 15 was tortured to death by her parents in Eugene, Oregon. In Santa Ana an Englishman called David Allen Goddard has been arrested for the terrible sexual abuse of a teenage girl whom he was supposedly home educating.
And so it goes on. These are all cases over the last month or so; none made particularly big headlines. It is quite possible, indeed likely, that the more common that home education becomes, the more common will become such cases of abuse and murder. As home education grows in this country, we can probably expect to see more cases of abuse and murder of supposedly home educated children here. I say 'supposedly' because of course in these cases home education was actually used as a cover for abuse and neglect. As readers will remember, one of the terms of reference of the Badman review of elective home education was to investigate the extent to which claims of home education could be used as a cover for child abuse such as neglect and sexual exploitation. This provoked fury on the part of some home educators, the impression being given that such things were almost unheard of.
The problem is, both here and in the United States, not home educators as such. Parents home educating their children are probably no more likely to abuse or murder them than those who send them to school. The problem is that when regulations and monitoring are ineffective or non-existent, then some people will claim to be home educating in order to harm children. Without investigating the claim that they are home educating, it is all but impossible to detect these people.
What is the response of home educators in this country? It is twofold. Firstly, they try whenever possible to ignore such cases which involve home education. The dreadful affair in Plymouth a month ago, when parents deregistered their thirteen year old daughter from school, declined visits and then used her as a sex slave has been absolutely ignored. Home educators like to think that such things do not happen. When it is impossible to ignore a case involving the cruel mistreatment of a home educated child, such as happened in the case of Khyra Ishaq, the tactic is a little different; they pretend that she was not a home educated child at all. How can this be done? Very simply, if you have the right mindset.
Khyra Ishaq's mother took her children out of school in order to teach them at home. There seems no doubt at all that this was her intention. She bought a lot of exercise books and workbooks for maths and English. She couldn't cope with the task, but that was certainly her intention. Home educators point out though that she failed to comply with the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006, which cover the deregistration of children from school to be home educated. Regulation 8 (1)(d) says that a child's name is to be removed from a school's register if: He has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor has received
written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving
education otherwise than at school.
Ah hah! Angela Gordon was not aware of regulation 8 (1)(d) and gave only verbal notification. Because she did not write a letter, her child was never technically deregistered from school and cannot therefore be considered home educated. How cool is that? So you see, this wasn't the murder of a home educated child at all, but merely the death of a truant. Quite a different matter. One up to the home educators in ridding themselves of an embarrassing fellow home educator in this way. What a bunch of weasels!
A while ago, some fool called Carlotta on the blog Dare to Know, named me as somebody who would have blood on his hands if the Children, Schools and Families Bill passed into law. I have a suspicion that some of those who opposed this legislation so vociferously are far more likely to be in that state than I am. There can be no doubt that some people claim to be home educating in order to harm children. The attempt was being made to detect and deter these individuals. This was frustrated because it was seen as an infringement of the 'rights' of genuine home educators. Perhaps a little more thought might have been given to the rights of the children and a little less to the 'rights' of the adults involved.