I hadn’t heard of Calista Springer before, that I recall. She is mentioned in a piece about homeschooling and fundamentalism (and Quiverfull and patriarchalism) in American Prospect.
Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.
The emphasis on discipline has given rise to a cottage industry promoting harsh parenting techniques as godly. Books like To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl promise that parents can snuff out rebellious behavior with a spanking regimen that starts when infants are a few months old. The Pearls claim to have sold nearly 700,000 copies of their book, most through bulk orders from church and homeschooling groups. The combination of those disciplinary techniques with unregulated homeschooling has spawned a growing number of horror stories now being circulated by the ex-homeschoolers—including that of Calista Springer, a 16-year-old in Michigan who died in a house fire while tied to her bed after her parents removed her from public school, or Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee whose Washington state parents were convicted in September of killing her with starvation and abuse in a Pearl-style system. Materials from HSLDA were found in the home of Williams’s parents.
I’ve written about the Hana Williams case here – she was murdered just an hour or two north of here – but not that horrifying item about Calista Springer.
I can’t find much about her, especially on reliable sites. A blog at CNN reported the verdict in the trial of her father and his wife (she was apparently more abducted than adopted).
Centreville, Michigan – Anthony and Marsha Springer arrived at the Centreville courtroom in green and white striped prison garb to receive their sentences from the judge, Hon. Paul Stutesman. Their daughter, Calista, died in a house fire on February 27, 2008 while chained to her bed. Soon after the fire, a long history of abuse by the couple toward Calista was revealed.
A shackled Anthony Springer spoke to the judge, apologizing for what happened to his daughter Calista, but reiterating that it wasn’t intentional and that they did the “best we could with what was available to us.” Anthony spoke about the neglect that Calista endured as a baby by her birth mother Norma Swegles. Swegles, who was present for the sentencing, muttered obscenities and was escorted out of the courtroom by the bailiff.
In his statement to the judge, Anthony Springer laid heavy blame on the Department of Human Services saying, “This system failed Calista and it failed this family and it failed seriously.”
Discipline. Another one disappears into the mist.