A recent article published by ProPublica and Slate scrutinizes, among other things, the role of the Home School Legal Defense Association in pushing back against attempts to place new regulations on home education. Early on, the piece highlights one such battle where the association was successful, as it often is, at defeating such an attempt:
After the story of the emaciated boys appeared in national newspapers, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg was moved to introduce new legislation. “My question was, how does someone fall off the face of the earth so that no one knows they exist? I was told it was because he was homeschooled,” she said.
Her bill, introduced in 2004, would’ve required parents, for the first time, to notify the state that their children were being homeschooled, have them complete the same annual tests as public school students, and submit proof of annual medical tests.
Soon afterward, a small group of homeschooling parents began following Weinberg around the capitol. The barrage of phone calls from homeschooling advocates so jammed her office phone lines that staffers had to use their private cellphones to conduct business. “You would have thought I’d recommended the end of the world as we know it,” said Weinberg. “Our office was besieged.”
Florida has seen its own debates over home school regulations, often brought on similarly by well-intended efforts to protect children from abuse.
Home schooling rules came under scrutiny after the death of Nubia Barahona, whose parents pulled her from public school. The case was unspeakably horrific. But it came amid a major, systemic breakdown in the state’s child-protection system that began while the victims were still in school.
So did the case justify new scrutiny for home schooling, or new regulations? Or was that beside the point?