Over the last week or so, I have been pointing out that abuse rates for home educated children are far higher than those for children at school. I have also been discussing one factor which causes this to be so; the high proportion of home educated children with learning difficulties and behavioral problems. Inevitably, this has caused offence to some, but since I find the abuse of children with special educational needs offensive, I don’t think I need worry unduly about any offence I might have caused by drawing attention to the scale of the problem.
One of those commenting here trotted out a few of the hoary old myths associated with home education and I propose today to tackle these and lay the ground for looking tomorrow at some actual figures about the abuse of home educated children. First though, let’s look at what was suggested yesterday. The first concerns the abuse of children with special educational needs, which is relevant for reasons at which I have already looked:
I would suggest that before the professionals turn their attention to a group where there is no evidence of abuse, they look at residential school settings where, sadly, there is such evidence, including one school where OFSTED gave it a glowing report, then rapidly downgraded it to 'unsatisfactory' when it realised that the safeguarding was so brilliant that a girl was excluded for being raped because it was against school policy to have sex.
those of us who are home educating because we removed our children from school situations that constituted neglect, physical abuse and emotional abuse need to hear.
This was by a mother who has children with special needs and is hinting that the abuse and neglect of such children is primarily a problem in schools and residential units. This ties in neatly with the mythology adopted by many home educators, that schools are dangerous and unsafe places for their children; rife with abuse and neglect. This is utterly untrue. I am using research mainly from America here, simply because that undertaken in this country has been patchy and small-scale. Looking at the question of abuse and neglect in general, who are the perpetrators? One study, (NCANDS, 2005) found that the figures were as follows;
6.8% other relatives
3.8% unmarried partners of a parent
The rest were nearly all friends and neighbours of the family. Abuse and neglect in schools and residential settings was completely insignificant. How insignificant? Another study looked at this, (USDHHS, 2007), and found that less than 1% of cases of abuse were by residential staff, teachers or other professionals. Yes, that’s right; less than 1%. What research there has been in this country tends to confirm these findings.
Neglect and abuse, whether sexual, physical or emotional, are domestic problems. They almost invariably take place in the home. The idea that removing a child from school will make him or her less likely to be abused is, generally speaking, nonsense.
Another thing which the person commenting here yesterday said was this:
Would you not agree that even within those groups the overwhelming majority of children were not abused?
If we are talking about children with special educational needs and disabilities, then this is tricky to answer. It depends what you mean by an overwhelming majority. In studies both here and the USA, some of them enormous, it was found time and time again that children with special needs were neglected and abused far more than children without such difficulties. How much more likely was they to be abused or neglected? Thinking now about those with learning difficulties and behavioral problems, one piece of research, (Sullivan & Knutson, 2009) found that:
The children at highest risk were those with behavioral disorders. Their risk is seven times higher for neglect, physical abuse and emotional abuse, and 5.5 times higher for sexual abuse than are children without disabilities.
Consider that statistic carefully; a child with behavioral difficulties is seven times as likely to be neglected or physically abused. What is truly horrifying is that in the largest of such studies, of over 50,000 children in Nebraska, (Sullivan, 2000), it was found that overall, a third of children with special needs and disabilities had been neglected and/or abused. Returning then to the comment made yesterday, in which I was invited to agree that the overwhelming majority of children were not abused, then we must ask ourselves if we view 66% as an overwhelming majority? Around 33% of children with special educational needs are abused by their family and friends, while about 66% are not. I'm not sure that I would call 66%, an 'overwhelming majority'.
Here then is the implication for home education. If we assume, and I guess that most home educating parents will do so, that home educators are no more likely to be wicked or abusive than other parents, then it is also fair to say that they are no more virtuous than other parents. That is to say that the levels of neglect and abuse inflicted by home educating parents are likely to be similar to those carried out by parents with children at school. What this means in plain terms is that a third of home educated children with behavioral difficulties are likely to be neglected or abused by their parents.
Tomorrow, we will look at the implications of these percentages in practical terms when it comes to overall rates of abuse for home educated children. Because as we all know, a very large proportion of home educated children are on the autistic spectrum, have ADHD, or various types of behavioral difficulties. This means of course, that the proportion of home educated children being neglected and abused is likely to be far higher than in the school population as a whole.