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.