Would More State Control Over Homeschooling Reduce Child Abuse, Neglect, and Murder?

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Various news and opinion media outlets occasionally claim that more government control (regulation) over private homeschooling would reduce the amount of child abuse, neglect, and murder (or fatalities) that occurs in the United States (e.g., Davies, 2024). There are also scholars who claim that the civil government should do more to control homeschooling and that this would reduce the occurrence of abuse and neglect in the nation (e.g., Bartholet, 2020).

Is there, however, any empirical evidence that there is a problem to solve with respect to the homeschooling community and are the promotions of more state control over private home education supported by any empirical bases?


Certain elements must be considered before one answers whether more civil government controls over private activities would reduce the rate of some alleged wrong behavior. First, is trying to stop that behavior before it is executed the role of the civil government? From the biblical perspective, the answer is “no.” The state is authorized to punish the evildoer and commend the doer of good (I Peter 2:13-17), not to try to stop a person before he or she might do something bad. Also, from a classical liberal freedom perspective (generally the history of the United States), the state is not allowed to put prior restraints on individuals if no crime has been committed. U.S. citizens are presumed innocent until proven guilty; they are not treated as guilty, a priori, as they go about their lives.

Second, there must be evidence that a particular group of individuals is regularly engaged in immoral or illegal behavior before the civil government works on plans to control or curtail that group’s private behaviors.

Finally, if an illegal or immoral problem exists with a certain group of persons, with empirical evidence that it exists, then conversations may be had regarding whether proposed controls (e.g., statutes, laws, regulations) might reduce or solve the problem.

Research Empirical Evidence to Date

Studies to date suggest that no problem exists. That is, there is no empirical body of evidence that children being in institutional public or private schools makes them less at risk of being abused, neglected, or murdered than homeschooled children. A review of research (Ray, 2024) reveals that the studies that have attempted to include relatively representative samples or be explanatory in nature have found (a) “Conventional school and homeschool students experienced the same rate of maltreatment,” (b) “Homeschooled abused at a lower rate than conventionally schooled,” (c) “Demographics – not school type – explain differences in abuse and neglect. Maltreatment of the home-educated at home is not significant,” and (d) “Conventional school fatalities more than homeschool.”

Further, the few relevant studies done to date do not find that changes in homeschooling laws lead to notable changes in abuse or neglect. The studies have found (a) “No clear evidence of an increase in reported incidents of abuse or other harm in states that relaxed controls on homeschooling,” (b) “Abuse rates declined in United States as homeschool rates rose,” and (c) “No relationship between degree of state regulation of homeschooling and the abuse/neglect of homeschool students” (Ray, 2024).

Other Considerations

Various persons imply or claim that if, in the rare instances where homeschool parents do evil and illegal things to their children, there had been more state controls over homeschooling in general, then the evil person would not have perpetrated the crime. For example, a journalist said, “But this is an example of, again, the type of worst-case scenario that can unfold in the absence of any home-schooling regulation.” The journalist commits the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore, because of this), the mistaken assumption that one event, B, is caused by another event, A, solely because B follows A in time.

Those who understand how evil persons work know that more state controls over homeschooling, such as mandating academic achievement testing or curriculum plans, would likely do no good to stop the relatively rare instances of abuse, neglect, and harm. Things such as state-mandated testing and curriculum plans do not stop public school teachers, coaches, and administrators, public school parents, private school parents, or homeschool parents from sometimes harming children. It is possible that state-forced random and unannounced visits once per month of all homes with children in the United States might make a difference but this would then not be the United States. Further, despite the fact that public school and private school children are around state-controlled mandatory reporters every school day, many of these children are still abused and neglected.

Concluding Comments

There is no body of research that suggests the rates of child abuse, neglect, and murder (or fatalities) are any lower amongst public schooled and private schooled children than homeschooled children. There is no body of research that suggest that more civil government control over private homeschooling would reduce any immoral or illegal behaviors that are occurring in America. There is no body of research that suggests there is any problem with the homeschooling community that requires more state control over the homeschooling community. On the contrary, the extant body of research suggests that there are fewer problems associated with homeschool children and their families than those involved in institutional public schooling (e.g., Murphy, 2012; Ray, 2017; Seiver & Pope, 2022).


Bartholet, Elizabeth. (2020). Homeschooling: Parent rights absolutism vs. child rights to education and protection, Arizona Law Review, 62(1).

Davies, Dave. (2024). Home schooling is surging, but lax regulation can leave kids vulnerable to abuse, https://www.npr.org/2024/01/18/1225324564/home-schooling-is-surging-but-lax-regulation-can-leave-kids-vulnerable-to-abuse

Murphy, Joseph. (2012). Homeschooling in America: Capturing and assessing the movement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage Company.

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. (2024). Homeschool abuse and neglect research: how many homeschooled kids are abused?, https://www.nheri.org/homeschool-abuse-and-neglect-research/

Seiver, Jillene Grover; & Pope, Elisa A. (2022). The Kids Are Alright II: Social Engagement in Young Adulthood as a Function of K-12 Schooling Type, Personality. Home School Researcher, 37(2), 1-9, https://www.nheri.org/the-kids-are-alright-ii-social-engagement-in-young-adulthood-as-a-function-of-k-12-schooling-type-personality-traits-and-parental-education-level/