Only a crazy system could allow this to happen

Most people have heard about David and Louise Anna Turpin who kept their 13 children aged 2 to 29 like prisoners under the most appalling conditions, where they were shackled and starved. These children were not sent to school but kept at home pretty much all the time. It was only after one 17-year old child escaped through a window and called the authorities that the abuse was discovered although it had been going on for years. She was so emaciated that police thought she was just 10 years old.

Apart from why any parent would do this to their children, the big question is how this could be allowed to happen at all. It is because of the highly hands-off way that the authorities treat private schools and home schools in the US. It does not take much for someone to claim that they run a home school and they are pretty much left alone.

California state laws requires children age six to 18 to attend public day school.

However, parents or guardians can pull their children out of school and educate them at home through an existing private school, a public charter or independent study programme or by opening a home-based school and filing an affidavit, according to CDOE.

To file a “Private School Affidavit”, a school must state that enrolled students are attending full-time and take attendance daily.

However, California private schools operate outside the jurisdiction of the education department and most regulations. The state has no authority to monitor or evaluate them. [My emphasis-MS]

Private school teachers do not need certification and instead must merely be “persons capable of teaching”, according to state law.

A 2008 ruling required parents who home school to receive a teaching credential after California courts heard a case of alleged child abuse by a father who had eight home-schooled children.

However, the ruling was reversed six months later following backlash in the home school community.

I know parents who home school their children. While their reasons for doing so are clearly religious and seemed to be based on the fact that for whatever reason they dislike the kind of children they would meet in public schools and the secular atmosphere they would encounter, they were also conscientious about teaching their children. But it should not be left to the discretion of parents as to what kind of education the children get. There must be strict monitoring to stop not only this kind of extreme abuse but also prevent children being deprived of a decent education.

It should not come as a surprise that the Turpins were considered ‘good Christians’.

The children’s grandparents said that they had not seen the family for four or five years.

James and Betty Turpin told ABC they were considered a good Christian family in their community and that “God called on them” to have so many children.

When people say that their god wants them to have lots of children and then proceed to have 13 of them even though they cannot support such a large family (the Turpins had declared bankruptcy several times), that should be a warning sign that something is not quite right.

Unfortunately the home-school movement in the US has deep roots in the extreme right-wing of US politics and thus has quite a bit of clout to prevent any state supervision.


  1. says


    For every family like the Turpins whose crimes come to light are hundreds, if not thousands, quietly existing in plain sight.

    Years ago a friend of mine who work for the county in Child Protective Service related an eye opener he experienced early in his career. He was burning out dealing with cases in Cuyahoga County and thought he needed a change of scenery where the trauma would be less. He took a job in rural Iowa.

    The horrors he found there were 10 times worse than anything he had found here. He and his family moved back in less than 10 years. The Turpins are not aberrations.

    Years later, I shared his story with another friend who grew up in rural Iowa. She told me that his experiences were mild compared to what she and her friends had seen.

    Hell is for children.


  2. says

    I would think that a civilized society would have a bill of children’s rights. Instead, parents more or less own their children until they are old enough to try to assert their rights and escape.

    Out here where I live, it’s near amish country. I was at one local event and there were a few children there -- the girls were basically being prepped for lives of drudgework; one of the children had suffered what appeared to be a broken leg, which was poorly set. I don’t think those kids should have been doing manual labor with dangerous farm equipment; that’s straight out of the child-labor of the industrial revolution. But the kids have no ability to choose how they are going to be raised and -- church and state -- they’re left to their fates. The amish kids have no chance to escape -- even if they left at adulthood, they’re qualified to work low-paid jobs -- it’s not like those girls are going to leave and go get a job on as an IT specialist working for some tech company; they know how to churn butter or drive a horse-team and otherwise, they’ve been completely screwed by their parents’ crazed ideology. Home schooling is a sham that is mostly used by lunatic fringers as a way of getting around mandatory education so they can propagandize “their” kids with goddy stuff or right-wing proto-fascist stuff (I’ve met a few of those, and they are really scary: imagine a kid that was home-schooled so that parents could “protect” the kid from ever seeing a person of color, how do you think they’re going to fit in to the 21st century world?)

    I have neighbors up the street who don’t have their kids vaccinated, and would pull them out of school if it was mandated. They’re being raised, basically, to be coal miners. Because that’s what their father knows. They’re in for a horrible surprise.

  3. Storms says

    My daughter is mildly autistic. We spent years trying to find programs that would work for her within the city school system in Cincinnati. At base she is smart and happy, but somewhat emotionally stunted, doesn’t pick up on social cues and prone to input overload. Except for one period where we had her on dexedrine (which we ended because she wouldn’t eat or sleep), it would usually take her 4-5 hours to do a regular kids hour of homework. We pulled her out of school in 7th grade after she had several breakdowns from social harassment and the school administration, try as they might, couldn’t cope.
    We home schooled her, with some help from friends, from 7th to 12th grade. She got her GED on schedule and is now a sophomore in college.
    I recognize the religious crazies abuse the system; we saw that in the Cincinnati homeschooling community too. Just saying, before you broadly condemn home schooling generally, you should understand that there are instances where it makes sense.

  4. busterggi says

    Had they registered the house as a church instead of as a school this would probably have been covered up if investigated at all.

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