The public school system in Indiana is regularly forcing troubled students into homeschooling to supposedly alleviate a growing trend often dubbed as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
The Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) — with the help of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) — is tackling this issue head-on by entering a discussion about the procedure used by school districts in the Hoosier State that was designed to deal with students struggling within the public school system.
In the process of trying to come up with solutions, the Midwestern state has broadened its way of dealing with deviant students by including homeschooling … for the mere fact that a number of public schools have been habitually forcing troubled students on campus to homeschool.
Besides its potential of giving homeschooling a bad name, another threat to homeschooling was identified by legal experts fighting to keep teaching at home a practice without undue government intrusion.
“Some critics have used the situation to claim that to better serve these troubled students, homeschooling needs increased government oversight,” HSLDA points out. “We acted to counter these criticisms and correct the record.”
When the Indiana Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights hosted a meeting on the issue, HSLDA attorneys took the opportunity assess the problems that schools are looking to solve through forced homeschooling.
“The advisory committee was discussing policies and practices that push public schoolchildren out of classrooms and into the courts and on to prison,” HSLDA reports. “Those concerned about this ‘pipeline’ typically identified two different types of students as being most vulnerable: 1) students whose lack of interest in school head them towards becoming dropouts or being expelled because of bad behavior, and 2) low-performing students who are pushed out in a perverse attempt by some officials to boost their school’s overall test scores.”
However, attorneys at the nonprofit legal organization contend that homeschooling does not have any direct connection to the aforementioned situations.
“True, we do regularly talk to and help plenty of fed-up parents who are trying to get their children out a troubled situation in the public school,” HSLDA Staff Attorney TJ Schmidt concedes … before disclosing the flip-side of the issue. “Many other parents we talk to are frustrated by the apparent inability of local school officials to address the specific needs of their children who struggle academically and make only minimal progress each year.”
Schools using homeschooling to their advantage
Schmidt argues that the public schools are not using forced homeschooling to benefit students, but rather, they are using it for their own bureaucratic advantage.
“However, homeschooling came up in one of the school-to-prison pipeline hearings because of the aforementioned problem that both HSLDA and IAHE have noticed for years: some school corporations in Indiana appear to be actively pushing parents of troubled teens or underperforming students into homeschooling,” the lawyer from the Christian legal group continued. “This allows the school corporation to treat these students as transfers instead of dropouts, thereby improving their graduation rates and lowering their dropout rates.”
More perks for public schools from the policy were also divulged.
“Some schools even encourage those they have expelled to begin homeschooling,” Schmidt asserts. “Most school officials are not doing this to help these students, but simply get them out of their system.“
It was also mentioned that when homeschooling takes place outside of parents’ own free will, students suffer.
“But this practice hurts both families and homeschooling,” Schmidt warns. “Both HSLDA and IAHE are concerned that if the desire to homeschool doesn’t start with the parents, they won’t consider the cost or take full responsibility for educating their children at home.”
Responding to an in-depth examination of matter by state officials, it was noted by HSLDA attorneys that homeschooling was being utterly misrepresented, which could influence a misinformed response to the issue at hand.
“Not surprisingly, when homeschooling was discussed at the civil rights advisory committee meeting, members heard a very inaccurate description of parents’ responsibilities for educating a child in Indiana,” the legal group based in Purcellville, Virginia, informed. “In fact, the testimony referred to the status of homeschooling in Indiana as the ‘wild west’ and implied that homeschool students were destined to be lost without any chance of being educated.”
After hearing the unsubstantiated and refuted account, Schmidt proceeded to provide written testimony detailing how homeschool parents and most nonpublic schools throughout Indiana are treated equally by state law.
“In fact, over 100 years ago, the Indiana Appellate Court specifically acknowledged that ‘the number of persons, whether one or many, make a place where instruction is imparted any less or any more a school (State v. Peterman, 32 Ind. App. 665, 70 N.E. 550 (1904),’” the pro-family attorney insisted. “Since that time, any parent educating his or her child in Indiana has been deemed to be operating a nonpublic school.”
Schmidt also showed the committee through his testimony more legal reasons why homeschooling is every bit as legitimate as conventional and private schools
“In my testimony, I informed the committee that state law requires parents operating a nonpublic (home)school program to provide ‘instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools’ (Indiana Code § 20-33-2-28),” the homeschool attorney added. “Homeschool parents must also keep attendance records which can be requested by the state superintendent or local superintendent (IC § 20-33-2-20). The state superintendent can also require that the parent furnish information about the number of students in their school and the grade level they are in (IC § 20-33-2-21).”
While the committee took IAHE’s verbal testimony via phone, it requested Schmidt to submit his comments on the issue via written testimony, which he expects to be followed up by an ensuing committee report sometime this summer.