HARVARD POST-PANDEMIC FUTURE OF HOMESCHOOLING
In March 2020, the Harvard Law Review published a summary of Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet’s Arizona Law Review article calling for a presumptive ban on homeschooling. The article was the precursor to the planned Harvard Homeschool Summit to be hosted by the Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program and scheduled for June of 2020. One of the invited speakers at the Summit was Connecticut’s Child Advocate, Sarah Eagan. Her topic was legislative strategy. We expect she would have discussed her work on the report she wrote in 2018, in which she analyzed six unnamed towns’ records of students who withdrew to homeschool who had been reported to the Department of Children and Families. She concluded that 36% “lived in families that were the subject of at least one prior accepted report to DCF for suspected abuse or neglect.” In addition to the lack of scientific methodology in the data selection, she failed to distinguish between substantiated and unsubtantiated reports- i.e., whether or not a report resulted in an investigation, and whether or not a finding of abuse or neglect was made. The problems with the report and its conclusions are discussed here and here.
The irony of the timing of the Harvard Law Review article was not lost on the general public that had been experiencing pandemic schooling at home for two weeks. As the lockdowns continued, Harvard canceled the Summit. With a year of lockdown and pandemic education in view, the Harvard Kennedy School has arranged to hold a series of conferences throughout the summer to discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of Homeschooling. In the first conference, “Is it time for a change to homeschool laws,” Ms. Bartholet, along with James Dwyer, Eric Wearne and Michael Donnelly were interviewed by hosts Paul E. Peterson and David Hamilin. Not surprisingly, Ms Bartholet again quoted the report by the Child Advocate to support her proposition that homeschooling is a risk factor for abuse.The recorded session is now available on the Harvard website. Michael Donnelly’s slides on the safety and efficacy of homeschooling are available here. One can register for the remaining conferences for free throughout the summer.
After the first session, three state homeschool leaders - Pam Lucashu of TEACH CT, Tara Bentley of Indiana Home Educators and Tim Lambert of Texas Home School Coalition- discussed the Harvard conference and its implications for Homeschool Freedom. That recorded conversation can be seen here.
Those who want to regulate homeschoolers have sometimes pointed to child abuse of children kept at home. Homeschooling is not synonymous with a child at home, nor is there any evidence that homeschooled children are at greater risk of abuse than the general public. The videos below discuss the tragic case of Matthew Tirado. Matthew was an autistic teen who was a public school student reported as truant. State agencies failed to do their due diligence to investigate his well-being and Matthew died of malnutrition.
HOMESCHOOLING AND ABUSE