The Case for Homeschooling (Part 3): Child Safety

“Homeschooling … not only violates children’s right to a ‘meaningful education’ and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.”

This statement was published as part of a mid-2020 Harvard Magazine article interviewing Elizabeth Bartholett, a Harvard Law professor and now infamous anti-homeschooling movement icon. On all points of that statement, I strongly disagree: homeschooling provides a more meaningful education generally, homeschooled kids are safer, and homeschooled kids are often better citizens. Of these three and perhaps all arguments against homeschooling, the most commonly used argument is that sending kids to school is safer. We hear this in the news, from politicians, blogs, and academics. It’s not true; here’s why.

This article is part three of a series of posts addressing the growing anti-homeschool movement, which advocates for the abolition of homeschooling in the U.S. and abroad. Here, we point out the safety of homeschooling as just one argument for the natural right of families to homeschool their children. Click to jump to the previous posts: Part 1, Part 2.

Sexual Abuse at School

I hear anti-homeschoolers go on and on about how “teachers catch the most cases of child sexual abuse.” This is true, but this is a sleight of hand to distract from the reality that the sexual abuse of children likely occurs at school more frequently. Out of the frying pan and into the fire?

A fair comparison isn’t just judging the number of child abuses cases perpetrated by parents vs. teachers, either. Remember a school is a mini-bureaucracy with administrators, athletic coaches, custodians, and of course other students – all capable of committing the same crimes as anyone else.

As a Catholic, I hear nonstop about the sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy, but if you think that’s bad, check out numbers estimated from brick-and-mortar schools. NCR’s Wayne Laugesen reports an estimated 422,000 California public school students would be victims of sexual abuse by the time of graduations. Of course, what constitutes “sexual abuse” is likely to vary from study to study, but imagine only 10% are legitimate. This still leaves us with 42,000 victims from California public schools alone. No study estimates parental child abuse with a rate anywhere near that number.

Think the Catholic Church has a problem? The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.

Charol Shakeshaft, Hofstra University via [1] CBS News

Californian news outlets were not nearly as keen to inform the public on this abuse pandemic as readily as abuses within the Catholic Church. In 2002, 61 of the state’s biggest news outlets ran thousands of stories about the latter, compared to only four stories about the federal government’s report of widespread abuse in California’s public schools.

Several academic studies confirm there is widespread abuse within our educational institutions. A 2003 study reported that just under 10% of students (grades 8-11) claim to have experienced some form of sexual misconduct from an educator [2]

However, teachers may be of relatively low concern for the perpetration of sexual misconduct at schools. From the same 2003 study, among all students who reported any kind of sexual misconduct, the vast majority (79%) of offenses came from other students [2].

The American Association of University Women reports even higher rates of abuse; up to 81% of students (85% for girls, 76% for boys) in grades 8 through 11 reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or abuse [3]. An Idaho educator Bithel (1991) estimated 5% of teachers committed such harassment or abuse, ranging from vulgar comments to intercourse [4]. Further studies looking at the ratio of abuse by parents compared to others concludes that 60-70% of child abuse cases are perpetrated by non-family [5].

While I’m a skeptic of the magnitude of some of the reported numbers, the overall consensus is obvious: that sexual abuse in schools is far more pervasive than at home. Another study found that abuse by parent figures constituted between 6% and 16% of all cases, and abuse by any relative made up about a third of cases [6]. Again, we see that intra-familial cases are in the minority despite the suspicion that “…child abuse reporting systems and clinical programs tend to overrepresent intrafamilial cases” [6, emphasis added].

Some will point out the intrinsic likelihood of catching sexual abuse at school is higher than at home to justify the obviously higher sexual abuse at school; but to posit school is safer without lack of supporting evidence is ridiculous. At the least, one would have to admit a lack of sufficient evidence.

Even if we imagine that sexual abuse was just as rampant in the home as compared to school, the real “safety” of schools comes to light when considering all forms of abuse and violence.

Bullies, Gangs, Drugs, and Psychos

The anti-homeschool movements tends to focus on one, small form of violence: sexual abuse, which as I’ve shown ad nauseam, is a rather potent argument in favor of homeschooling. Nonetheless, don’t concede the premise that sexual abuse is the only form of violence infringing on the safety of our children. Sexual abuse is but one of many forms of violence worthy of attention.

I don’t think I have to break out the statistics (I’ll save it for the book…) on bullying to get the point across that bullying is primarily a school problem. Start homeschooling your kid and voila: bullying eliminated. (Side note: If cyber-bullying is a problem for your kids, get them off the internet. Problem solved.)

Then consider further the other plagues on children that could be eliminated by removing them from the epicenters of child-problems. Gangs formed at schools would be eliminated, and already established gangs could no longer use schools as recruitment grounds. General negative influences of peers would be mitigated severely, leading to a more moral and upright youth. The sphere of influence for drugs and other substance abuses would be diminished as drug pushers would no longer have the market offered by brick-and-mortar schools.

Mass school shootings go the way of the dodo bird with homeschooling.

Common sense of the author

If these few points are not enough, consider at last school shootings. Schools concentrate a large number of defenseless kids in a relatively small area. Homeschooling intrinsically eliminates such crowds by keeping each family’s children in their natural habitat: home.

There’s No Place Like Home

None of what I’ve reported above is meant to scare anyone into homeschooling. Rather, my intent is to combat a silly argument put forth by those who hope to ban homeschooling by wielding the club of “safety”. The sum of the facts on child abuse, bullying, drug abuse, gang violence, and school shootings put to rest the utterly false idea that schools are safer than homes.

Homeschooling offers children the safest, most effective learning environment, as is attested by thousands of dedicated parents. Give it a thought, at the least, because your child’s education is worth the consideration.

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This article is part three of a series of posts addressing the growing anti-homeschool movement, which advocates for the abolition of homeschooling in the U.S. and abroad. Here, we point out the safety of homeschooling as just one argument for the natural right of families to homeschool their children. Click to jump to the previous posts: Part 1, Part 2.

Sources

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/has-media-ignored-sex-abuse-in-school/

[2] https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/report.pdf

[3] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1746-1561.1993.tb07153.x

[4] https://search.proquest.com/docview/851310187?pq-origsite=gscholar

Original source: (McGrath, 1994)

[5] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00098651003655936

Original source: (Elliott, Browne, and Kilcoyne, 1995)

[6] https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=5LohmJRW2DwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA55&dq=sexual+abuse+of+children&ots=ONwnYKmxRY&sig=xgacoyS8_84itFS4EdSdC8te3Bo#v=onepage&q=sexual%20abuse%20of%20children&f=false page 56 and 57

Original source: (Finkelhor, 1994; Saunders, Kilpatrick, Hanson, Resnick, Walker 1999)

Published by Christian Bottenfield

Catholic | Father of two | Husband | Engineer | Founder of ThinkingWest blog

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