Parents who homeschool their children deserve a round of applause and a lot of credit. They are taking on a role not many are willing to do. Most people are busy just trying to keep up with the bills, working around the home and looking after the kids. Teaching them at home demands great sacrifice, commitment and dedication. While Kauai has fine public school teachers, those who homeschool deserve accolades.
That’s part of the reason we support Senate Bill 2323, introduced by Hawaii State Senate Kaiali’i Kahele, which would create a screening process designed to ensure that children with elevated risk factors are not removed from school to be homeschooled, according to a press release.
Kahele told reporters that he introduced the bill in response the tragic 2016 starvation death of 9-year-old Shaelynn Lehano, who lived in his Hilo district.
“We are pleased with Sen. Kahele’s proposal and urge the Hawaii legislature to put homeschooled children first by supporting SB 2323,” said Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for homeschooled children. “Homeschooling should be used to lovingly prepare children for an open future, and not as an avenue for abusive parents to isolate children and conceal torture and abuse.”
The vast majority of parents who homeschooled do so because they believe it will benefit their children, not to abuse them. They should be not be labeled in any way that portrays them in a negative light. However, there are cases, as cited by Kahele, where abuse happens. If this bill can prevent that, and as proposed, it will, than it should be passed into law. What it is calling for is reasonable and responsible.
Under SB 2323, the complex area superintendent would run a background check on each individual residing in a home upon the receipt of a notification of intent to homeschool; families with a history of child abuse or neglect would have their notification of intent denied.
In the bill’s introduction, Kahele references “Peter Boy” Kema, who died in 1997 after his parents were allowed to homeschool him despite their history of child abuse and neglect. Shaelynn’s case was eerily similar.
In a 2014 study of child torture, Barbara Knox, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin, found that 47 percent of the school-aged victims she examined had been removed from school to be homeschooled, an act “designed to further isolate the child” that “typically occurred after closure of a previously opened CPS case.”
CRHE maintains the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children database, which catalogues cases across the country where abuse and neglect occur under the guise of homeschooling. In many of these cases, parents withdrew a child to homeschool after teachers demonstrated a willingness to report signs of abuse, thus preventing future reports.
“We have seen case after case where abusive parents have used homeschooling to conceal abuse,” said Coleman.
Currently, two states bar homeschooling based on certain risk factors. Pennsylvania bars parents from homeschooling when an adult in the household has committed a crime that would prevent them from teaching in a public school; Arkansas prohibits homeschooling when there is a registered sex offender in the home. SB 2323 would make Hawaii a national leader in the protection of homeschooled children. The background check and flagging process proposed by Sen. Kahele is in line with CRHE’s recommendations.
“Previous child welfare services involvement is one of the top risk factors for future abuse,” said Coleman. “Children at elevated risk of child abuse should have access to mandatory reporters and a support system.”
Homeschooling is the right of every parent. But it is a right that comes with great responsibility. Parents who chose to homeschool should welcome legislative efforts to protect children.