Child Abuse Hearing on Capitol Hill
- 2003 14 Nov
On Thursday, November 6, 2003, the Human Resources Subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee, held a hearing to examine "a recent failure to protect child safety". The hearing was to investigate an alleged child abuse case in New Jersey involving the starvation of a family's adopted children and the subsequent dismissal of social workers who had been investigating the family but missed the alleged abuse. Accountability was the Committee's focus since in 2002, federal taxpayers provided the states $3.1 billion to support children in adoptive and foster settings, and an additional $2.8 billion in administrative funding to help vulnerable children.
Prior to this hearing, HSLDA contacted the Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Wally Herger of California, to inform him that the family at issue was reported to be a homeschooling family, that certain legislators in New Jersey had cited this case as highlighting a need to pursue new regulations on homeschooling (-Click Here-), and why this call for new regulations was in error. Our efforts were not in vain.
Carla Katz, the president of the Communications Workers of America, a union representing social workers in New Jersey testified at the hearing. In her remarks, President Katz stated the following: "Home schooling creates gaps. Nearly 20% of all abuse cases are reported by schools. When children are outside the school system, extra protections are critical. There are no home schooling regulations that would require homeschooled children to see anyone from the public education system. There is no cross-referencing with the Department of Education to look for children who are in the 'system' but have not been seen by anyone."
Fortunately, the hearing did not turn in the direction of whether homeschooling is in need of further regulation. Chairman Herger kept the Committee on its principal task of investigating the use of taxpayer funds and did not develop the homeschooling issue.
At the core of the union's position is that homeschoolers should have greater involvement with the public school system in order to catch child abuse. But this is not the function of the public schools. It has long been held that the government's legitimate constitutional interest in education is literacy and self-sufficiency, not to detect child abuse. Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972). Moreover, it has been long understood that the government may not require all students to be required to be a part of the public school system, as children are not "mere creatures of the state". Pierce v. Society of Sisters 268 U.S. 510 (1925). Even though some parents might abuse children, it is still a presumption in America that parents act in the best interests of children. Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979).
As the recent CBS series on homeschooling demonstrated (-Click Here-), there is a growing trend to link homeschooling with child abuse. This trend poses a significant threat to homeschool freedom. Should it be accepted, it will pave the way for significant homeschool regulations. HSLDA will be working with Congress to make sure that the truth is presented in the final record of this hearing. Thank you for standing with us for homeschool freedom.