Mitchell L. Stevens, an associate professor of education and sociology at New York University, said school officials, who are required by law to report suspicion of child abuse, were society’s best watchdogs of how parents treat children.
“Home schooling removes children from a lot of that surveillance,” Mr. Stevens said, adding that the vast majority of home schooling families are “overwhelmingly trustworthy people who place a very high value on parental autonomy.” And thanks to the advocacy of the legal defense fund, he continued, “they have been largely successful since the late 1980s in getting the law to favor parental rights.”
One example of that, in 1991, disrupted an effort by the District of Columbia to regulate home schooling, with rules that included unannounced home visits and required teachers certification for parents doing the instruction. Christopher Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, met with District officials, told them they were on shaky ground because of the 1st, 4th and 14th amendments, and the rules were rescinded.
The Opinionated Homeschooler goes on with this comment:
Unannounced home visits. From representatives of the state. With no probable
cause. For families who have done nothing illegal. On the grounds that
"surveillance" is necessary because school officials are "society's best
Wow! They might as well argue for unannounced home visits by police in everyone's homes. After all, police officers, who are required to report suspicion of crimes, are "society’s best watchdogs" of criminal behavior. "The privacy of the home removes people from a lot of that surveillance." Of course, the vast majority of families are “overwhelmingly trustworthy people who place a very high value on individual autonomy.” And thanks to the advocacy of privacy advocates, “they have been largely successful in getting the law to favor privacy rights.” You get the point!
I find the idea of unannounced home visits frightening, not because I have anything to fear, but because of the implications for individual rights and privacy. How is it that my 11-year-old daughter can have an abortion because of her right to "privacy," but if I choose to homeschool her, we have no such right and could be subject to unannounced home visits?
The last time I checked, the Fourth Amendment still preserves "the right of the people to be
secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, . . . , and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Choosing to homeschool my children does not mean giving up this fundamental right.
And as The Opinionated Homeschooler and others have pointed out, unannounced home visits would not have helped the Jacks children. These children were in school! When they dropped out, the school district did their job, attempting to contact the family and reporting
the children's absence to authorities; the social service agency did not, and because they didn't, the children died. In fact, at least six child welfare workers in D.C. are going to be fired as a result of the failure of DC's Child and Family Services Agency to intervene. If the school district had been making unannounced home visits, they would still have reported to the same agency. These children were murdered as a result of failure to enforce existing regulations, not as a result of too few regulations.
Unannounced home visits to homeschoolers will not prevent child abuse. Requiring all children to go to school will not prevent them from being abused. And quite frankly, "society's best watchdogs" are also sometimes guilty of abusing children. Only enforcement of existing law has a chance of doing that - well, that, and more importantly, the redemption and transformation of human hearts through the power of God.