Professor Elizabeth Bartholet called for a ban of homeschooling just three years ago (2020). She called it a presumptive ban and based her proposed government regime on several claims regarding the negative impact and harm of homeschooling. The professor included assertions about child abuse in her rationale. Bartholet is not the only one to have brought abuse, neglect, and other maltreatment charges against the homeschool community. The claims and allegations have often flown too fast and loosely and without empirical evidence for substantiation.
This groundbreaking study addresses many of the topics important to a careful consideration of the debate about whether homeschool children are at any more risk of abuse and neglect than conventional (public school and private school) children. Scant empirical evidence has existed until the present study by Brian D. Ray and M. Danish Shakeel (2022).
Ray and Shakeel have carefully addressed pieces that have been missing in many previous studies on homeschooling. First, they obtained a nationally representative sample. Second, they collected data from the adult sample that included the full year-by-year 13-year schooling history and demographics during both childhood and adulthood, and the experiences of abuse and neglect, the categorical identity of the perpetrators of maltreatment, and when the maltreatment was committed.
Cross-sectional findings suggest that school sector is a non-issue after considering the role played by demographics. That is, child abuse and neglect are significantly associated with family structure, years in foster care, large family size, and household poverty.
Homeschooling and child abuse is not the issue, and conventional school and child abuse is not the issue; rather, demographics are the key to explaining differences in rates of maltreatment.
If anything, the weak incidences of child abuse among homeschoolers are not related to family, but with school and community. That is, the maltreatment is not happening at home and within the family but by others at places and activities such as at co-ops (co-operatives), part-time classes at a public or private school or a pod, museums, sports activities, music lessons, scouts, church or synagogue, or a play group.
The following three key points emerge from the empirical evidence:
- Policymaking on child protection should focus on demographics. Demographics, not a child’s schooling history – conventional school compared to homeschooling – explain variations in abuse and neglect.
- Debates and policymaking should not focus on school sector unless multiple representative studies can confirm that school sector plays a dominant role after controlling for demographics.
- For the weak incidences of child abuse among homeschoolers, instead of family, social settings outside the family are more associated with abuse and neglect.
This study fits in with a pattern that seems to be emerging based on empirical evidence to date. So far, there is no strong evidence that there is significantly more or less maltreatment committed against conventionally schooled children as compared to the home educated (homeschooled). A summary of research on this topic to date (Ray, 2022) is available at “Homeschool Abuse and Neglect Research: How Many Homeschooled Kids are Abused?” Future research will tell more.
The entire scholarly article on this new study by Brian D. Ray and M. Danish Shakeel (2022), “Demographics are Predictive of Child Abuse and Neglect but Homeschool Versus Conventional School is a Non-issue: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey,” is available from the Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform. For further study on the overall impact of homeschooling on children, see a review of research by Ray (2017).
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Bartholet, Elizabeth. (2020). Homeschooling: Parent rights absolutism vs. child rights to education and protection, Arizona Law Review, 62(1).
Ray, Brian D. (2017). A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice. Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 11(4), 604-621, https://www.nheri.org/a-systematic-review-of-the-empirical-research-on-selected-aspects-of-homeschooling-as-a-school-choice/
Ray, Brian D. (2022). Homeschool abuse and neglect research: How many homeschooled kids are abused?, https://www.nheri.org/homeschool-abuse-and-neglect-research/
Ray, Brian D.; & Shakeel, M. Danish. (2022). Demographics are predictive of child abuse and neglect but homeschool versus conventional school is a nonissue: Evidence from a nationally representative survey. Journal of School Choice, https://doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2022.2108879
Keywords, Categories, Tags:
Child abuse, neglect, socialization, social development, homeschool, public school, private school, conventional school, policy, policymaking