Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's Not Paranoia If They're Really After You

Daryl Cobranchi has been following this horrible tragedy.

Naturally, the cry goes out: This wouldn't have happened if only there were better regulation of homeschoolers!

Surely the reporters aren't so credulous that they can't see the politicians are trying to deflect attention onto the nebulous "homeschoolers" and away from anything that might land at their own door (like failure adequately to fund/staff programs already in place). There was already a system in place, and it failed spectacularly. People are going to be fired over its failures. So more regulations, aimed at homeschoolers, are going to work when the regulations and programs already in place didn't work because nobody paid attention or followed through?

From the NYTimes:
Mitchell L. Stevens, an associate professor of education and sociology at New York University, said school officials, who are required by law to report suspicion of child abuse, were society’s best watchdogs of how parents treat children.

“Home schooling removes children from a lot of that surveillance,” Mr. Stevens said, adding that the vast majority of home schooling families are “overwhelmingly trustworthy people who place a very high value on parental autonomy.” And thanks to the advocacy of the legal defense fund, he continued, “they have been largely successful since the late 1980s in getting the law to favor parental rights.”

One example of that, in 1991, disrupted an effort by the District of Columbia to regulate home schooling, with rules that included unannounced home visits and required teachers certification for parents doing the instruction. Christopher Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, met with District officials, told them they were on shaky ground because of the 1st, 4th and 14th amendments, and the rules were rescinded.
Unannounced home visits. From representatives of the state. With no probable cause. For families who have done nothing illegal. On the grounds that "surveillance" is necessary because school officials are "society's best watchdogs." At the risk of losing my blog's apoliticality, I'd like to think many Americans are a little wary by now of government intrusion of privacy on the grounds that something bad might happen. Note the simpering "'overwhelmingly trustworthy people'" remark. Translation: "I'm sure you're trustworthy. So why would you oppose strangers dropping into your home unannounced to see what you're up to? The Innocent Have Nothing To Fear (TM)."

So would more stringent homeschooling regulations have made a difference? From CNN:
A social worker at the school where the oldest girl was a student tried twice in April to get city agencies to investigate.
We've all read dozens of these homeschooling abuse cases over the years. I've yet to see one where there wasn't either (1) already a state agency involved, which was supposed to be doing the watchdogging, and/or (2) the children weren't in fact homeschooled. Someone let me know if I missed one. But if the social services, child welfare, foster care, and/or truant officer systems are already aware of the potential problems in a family, how on earth is regulating homeschooling going to improve matters? In this awful case in D.C., where nobody listened when the systems already in place were alerted, an unannounced visit would just have found the bodies earlier.


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