Mass. spurring intrusive homeschool investigations

Saturday, March 12, 2016
Michael F. Haverluck (

MassachusettsThe Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) claims that official policies are spurring it to administer more intrusive investigations of homeschool families — under a reportedly false claim that children educated at home are more at risk than publicly schooled youth to incur concealed parental abuse.

Calling the assumptions completely “erroneous,” the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is challenging the yet another power grab by “biased” government officials over their continued effort to undermine parental rights.

“[We have] encountered this troubling and recurring development in several recent DCF investigations of member families,” the nonprofit Christian legal group reports. “These cases involved the allegation (sometimes anonymous) that children who had recently been withdrawn from public school to be homeschooled were ‘not in school,’ or arose in the context of family disagreements over the parents’ educational choices.”

HSLDA attorneys argue that the Bay State has a recurring problem of misapplying policies in order to continue infringing on homeschoolers’ rights.

“Massachusetts school districts have a bad habit of filing allegations of educational neglect with DCF when students are absent from school, instead of sending a truant officer,” the Christian legal experts assert. “Although a number of these cases should have been closed immediately when the families offered proof of compliance with Massachusetts’ homeschool law, the investigators sought more intrusive and longer-lasting investigations.”

In response to the state’s allegedly unwarranted intrusions, HSLDA Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly demanded explanations from the homeschool investigators, and he was appalled at the explanation he received.

“[T]hey replied that homeschooled children need additional scrutiny because they are ‘not visible in their community,’ i.e., not as accessible to caseworkers and mandatory reporters as children in public school are,” Donnelly reported.

It is argued that such treatment is flagrant and unjustified discrimination against homeschoolers — on the sole account that they are not under the government’s strict surveillance on public school campuses on a daily basis.

“Although these cases involved social workers from different geographic areas, the investigators all expressed the same biased attitude toward homeschooling families,” attorneys at the nonprofit legal group based in Purcellville, Virginia, asserted. “They also considered the families’ compliance with homeschool laws to be irrelevant to whether they continued their investigations.”

Behind parents’ backs

HSLDA points out that government abuses on parental rights occurs on a regular basis, but are seldom reported or publicized.

“Like many states, Massachusetts gives DCF investigators access to interview and inspect children in public schools without parents’ knowledge or consent,” the attorneys said. “DCF does not have this latitude with homeschooling families, whose children are educated in their own homes and thus protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by the Fourth Amendment. But it does not follow from this that homeschooled children are any more likely to suffer undetected abuse or neglect than their traditionally schooled peers.”

It is also noted that homeschoolers are much more involved in their communities than publicly schooled children, who are locked up from the outside world on secured and controlled campuses — segregated from contact with the real world.

“Just like other children, homeschooled students participate in community events, sports, and extracurricular activities,” Donnelly and other HSLDA attorneys insist. “They attend church, go to the library, take music lessons, and hold part-time jobs.”

Get your facts straight

Statistics show that the conclusions public school officials disseminate to the public about superior safety on public school campuses are simply misperceptions that are frequently skewed in their favor.

“The idea that traditional school is the most likely place for abuse and neglect to be detected reflects a common assumption, but not the actual data,” the legal group informed. “In 2014, legal and law enforcement personnel made 18.1 percent of all abuse and neglect reports, and nonprofessional sources (such as parents, relatives, and neighbors) made 18.6 percent. Education personnel made 17.7 percent. Social services personnel made 11.0 percent of reports and medical personnel 9.2 percent.”

The biases consistently circulated that shine homeschooling in a negative light are said to be nothing more than presumptions used to keep the public school population (and revenues) at maximum levels.

“It is inaccurate to assume that the abuse of a homeschooled child is likely to go undetected simply because he or she does not regularly encounter education professionals,” HSLDA stated. “And to presume that children are implicitly at higher risk of abuse or neglect just because they are homeschooled is nonsense.”

Dealing with the problem

Even though child abuse is a problem that is by no means going away in America, HSLDA says that the government is going about the wrong way in dealing with it by singling out homeschoolers — who only account for two to four percent of the kindergarten to grade 12 population.

“Over the past five years, the annual number of children involved in child abuse investigations nationally has increased from approximately 3.0 million to 3.2 million, while the number of children determined to be abused or neglected has averaged 690,000,” the attorneys report. “HSLDA acknowledges there is an appropriate role for government intervention when children are abused, and we encourage adults in the homeschooling community to be informed about preventing and responding to child abuse. However, we categorically reject the idea that homeschooling families, as a class, should be treated with suspicion merely because they choose to educate their children at home.”

HSLDA urges homeschool parents to know their rights and understand that the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution — which addresses child abuse and neglect investigation — protects them, their homes and their families from undue government interference.

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