Dark Side of CBS
- 2003 10 Oct
On October 13 and 14, a two-part story by Vince Gonzales was aired on the CBS Evening News. The two segments were titled "A Dark Side to Home Schooling" and "Home Schooling Nightmares."
To view the stories - part one and part two -
In over 20 years of advocacy on behalf of homeschooling, HSLDA has seen lots of negative stories regarding home education. However, nothing compares with this series on CBS in terms of distorting the truth about home education.
The message of the CBS report was that families homeschool in order to hide child abuse. To makes its case, CBS simply reported on a few horrific tragedies. Notably absent was any attempt to compare child abuse rates in home education to national rates. Even more alarming was the fact that the examples used did not even support its case. The families that were highlighted in the program were already well known to social services. The existing laws were sufficient to bring the family's difficulties to the light of day.
It is worth briefly reviewing the five examples used by CBS to 'prove' their contention that homeschooling is used to hide child abuse.
There were two cases arising in Texas, both involving a mother killing her children. The cases of Andrea Yates and Deanna Laney received much publicity when they occurred. However, these cases were really not at all about homeschooling hiding abuse. In both situations, the women had severe mental illness which was the determining factor in their crimes and social services was aware of problems within the family. Moreover, most of the children in these two families had not reached the age of compulsory attendance. Therefore, they were no different from millions of families with 'pre-school' children.
Another example was from Iowa. There, the 10 year old adopted child of the Boss's was found dead. CBS contends that homeschooling enabled the family to hide the child from public authorities but the truth is that the Boss's lied to government agencies in order to evade detection. The child was adopted in Michigan and the Boss's informed Michigan authorities that the child was living in Iowa in order to receive monthly subsidy checks from Michigan. The Boss's also lied to local Iowa authorities stating that Timothy was living in Michigan with a relative. If there's any failure it is a failure of the adoption procedure. Homeschooling had nothing to do with the tragedy.
The Warren's, featured in the first CBS report had been contacted by social services eleven times and social services were working with the family when the tragic double murder suicide occurred. Homeschooling did not offer the family 'a form of protection' from the state since the state was already aware of the difficulties within the family. Again, homeschooling was not a factor in this tragedy.
The Edgar's weren't even homeschoolers. According to the Kansas City Star the Edgars were part of a government run virtual charter school. In addition, Christy Edgar had filed for divorce in 1979 citing 'fears of bodily harm from the defendant,' yet the Edgars were allowed to adopt children. Moreover, the family was also known to child protective services. Neil Edgar was accused of using a stun gun to discipline a child in 1999. Homeschooling was in no way connected with the Edgars.
If CBS had truly investigated this issue, they would have come to the following conclusion: Homeschooling is not a source of child abuse or endangerment, but actually a better environment for children.
According to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children were victimized in America at a rate of 12.4 per 1,000 children, resulting in 903,000 children having been found to be victims of child maltreatment in 2001, the most recent year for which statistics are available. More than half of these victims suffered neglect (57%), nearly one fifth (19%) were physically abused, one out of ten were sexually abused (10%). Fatalities resulting from child abuse occurred at a rate of 1.81 per 100,000 children.
We do not have statistics delineating how many of these abused children were educated at home. However, certain realities are apparent. The best estimate of the number of children being home schooled is approximately 2 million. Applying the rate of abuse to the homeschool population results in an estimate that there should be 24,800 children who would have been abused by their parents. This is a staggering figure. Applying the same reasoning to fatalities, there should be over 36 deaths a year of homeschooled children. Given the scrutiny of homeschooling by neighbors, relatives, and the general public, it is impossible that abuse is occurring at anything near the national average.
One of the unfortunate consequences of this report is that some people might actually believe it and use the anonymous tip procedures available to report homeschool families for abuse and neglect without any factual basis for doing so. Child Protective Services are obligated to follow-up these reports and homeschool families will face unwarranted harassment. This already happens all too frequently to families all across America. More importantly, real abuse will be missed because the system may be clogged with false reports.
CBS didn't stop at reporting a distorted story but also suggested several regulatory ideas which would address the problems it had supposedly uncovered. One of the suggestions was to subject homeschool parents to criminal background checks. A parent who chooses to raise their own children in their own home would have to undergo a thorough evaluation by a government agency. This is totalitarian and Americans rejected this long ago.
CBS also supports a teacher certification requirement for homeschool families. Why would any sensible person want to prevent dedicated and successful parents from teaching their own children at home by forcing parents to gain a government mandated teacher certification.
Numerous studies demonstrate that homeschoolers outperform their peers academically and a new study from the National Home Education Research Institute answers the nagging question surrounding the socialization of homeschool graduates. Homeschool graduates were found to be succeeding in all walks of life.
For more information on this study - click here -
The truth is that homeschool families are not havens of abuse but rather the leading edge of excellence in American education. CBS's failure to present a fair and unbiased view of home education reveals the dark side of CBS.
If the suggestions put forward by CBS were ever to become law then homeschooling would be severely restricted. The freedom to educate your own child would be lost and the government would assume your responsibilities. HSLDA is determined to fight this government intrusion and the media organizations who use distorted reports to encourage the heavy handed regulation of homeschooling.