"Thousands of Oklahoma children are homeschooled without abuse," The Oklahoman reminds us in an excellent editorial.
And the cases that do generate headlines highlight the challenges of crafting a functional regulatory system that can prevent abuse without endless harassment of good parents who legitimately homeschool.
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which advocates for greater regulation, maintains an archive of news stories involving abused children who were supposedly being homeschooled. Several Oklahoma cases involve people who lived transient lifestyles and rapidly moved from one state to another. Some were cult members. One family moved to Oklahoma from Pennsylvania in the spring and lived at a remote campsite. Another case involved a couple who became foster parents to six children in 2001. By 2003, two had been removed from the home because of abuse, yet the other four were left in the home and suffered years of abuse despite the family having already drawn the attention of authorities.
It's hard to imagine a credible homeschooling regulation that would dramatically change the outcomes of such cases.
Some argue that homeschooled students should have to take annual standardized tests to ensure they receive a good education. But standardized tests show thousands of Oklahoma's third-grade students read well below grade level, and there is no penalty placed on the public school for those failures.
It's been suggested a third-party entity monitor a child's homeschool education. But that would impose excessive costs upon families and effectively force them to duplicate the public school system they opted against. That's counterproductive.
It's also suggested that homeschooled students be required to get an annual medical checkup. But most of these students already see a doctor and the same requirement isn't imposed on public school students, which appears grounds for a successful lawsuit.
One can't ignore that many children attending public schools are victims of abuse. And school attendance doesn't guarantee protection. In some notable cases, school officials have turned a blind eye or delayed reporting abuse. In other instances, public school attendance increases the likelihood of a child being mistreated. There's a reason “anti-bullying” programs are now common in schools.