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Illinois Reporters Use Tragic Child Abuse Case To Dishonestly Smear Homeschool Families

woman teaching a girl how to read and write
Image CreditMikhail Nilov/Pexels

Rather than hold abusive parents or government workers accountable, reporters point fingers at homeschoolers.

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Homeschooling is having a moment. By a wide margin, homeschooling is now the fastest-growing form of education in America. It spans all demographics, geographies, and political stripes, but what the left cannot destroy, it seeks to discredit.

The latest example of this comes from Illinois, where leftist-funded ProPublica and a state-based news service, Capitol News Illinois, recently published an “investigation” into the way parents’ right to educate their own offspring allegedly endangers kids.  

The story, headlined “How Illinois’ Hands-Off Approach to Homeschooling Leaves Children At Risk,” tells the sad story of a boy named L.J., whose parents abused and neglected him. According to the story, L.J.’s parents stopped sending him to school. They beat him. They refused to feed him. He was subjected to emotional abuse. It’s a horrific tale and something no child should ever experience.

But rather than hold accountable L.J.’s obviously crummy parents or the myriad of government workers who knew about L.J.’s suffering yet did nothing about it, reporters Molly Parker and Beth Hundsdorfer instead point fingers elsewhere: at homeschoolers.

According to the reporters, L.J. was abused because Illinois allows parents to homeschool their children without obtrusive government involvement, noting that the state doesn’t require parents to register their homeschooling with any government agency.

“Under Illinois law, they must provide an education equivalent to what is offered in public schools, covering core subjects like math, language arts, science and health. But parents don’t have to have a high school diploma or GED, and state authorities cannot compel them to demonstrate their teaching methods or prove attendance, curriculum or testing outcomes,” the article states.

The article piles on, claiming that children who do not attend public school “lose the protections schools provide, including teachers, counselors, coaches and bus drivers — school personnel legally bound to report suspected child abuse and neglect.”  

But here’s the thing. None of that actually applies in L.J.’s case for two important reasons. First, child protection workers in Illinois knew about L.J.’s conditions. They simply chose not to do anything about it — for a year. And secondly, L.J. wasn’t actually homeschooled.

According to the ProPublica story, child protection workers in Illinois were first alerted to L.J.’s situation in January 2022. They were repeatedly called back throughout the year. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) made multiple visits to the boy’s home. Yet, over and over, they left him there.

From the ProPublica story:

  • “Following a call to its hotline in January 2022, DCFS found [L.J.’s parents] neglectful.”
  • “DCFS received more calls to its hotline in June 2022 and again that September, alleging that [L.J.’s parents] had mistreated L.J. … DCFS investigators … closed the cases.”
  • “The caller in September told DCFS the boy appeared malnourished.”
  • “L.J. had begged for food from neighbors … doctors were concerned about his weight …
  • “In November, a grocery store manager found L.J. in the parking lot begging for quarters and called police …”
  • “A few days later, police and child welfare services again visited the home and found welts and bruises on L.J.’s back. L.J. said [his father] had beaten him with a belt as punishment for eating leftover Salisbury steak and potatoes without permission. The boy also told child welfare workers he had not showered for two weeks.”

It wasn’t until that December, almost a full year later, that L.J., his baby brother, and his sister were finally taken away from their abusive parents.

Of course, Illinois natives are not surprised by this. DCFS is universally accepted to be “beleaguered” and “troubled.” Earlier this month, in a different case, a DCFS employee was sentenced to six months in prison after he ignored warning signs of child abuse in a case involving a child who was beaten to death by his mother.

So a dysfunctional DCFS spends a year dilly-dallying before removing L.J. from an abusive home. But who is to blame for L.J.’s situation? According to the ProPublica reporters, homeschoolers.

The story says L.J.’s parents stopped sending him to school. When questioned, L.J.’s parents lied and claimed he would be homeschooled. But L.J. received no education at home, and his parents did no teaching.

So L.J. wasn’t actually homeschooled.

Unsurprisingly, bad people usually aren’t honest people. L.J.’s parents may have claimed they were homeschooling, but they weren’t.

But instead of highlighting the severe suffering that children undergo when child protection workers fail to do their job, reporters Parker and Hunsdorfer jumped at the opportunity to publish a faux exposé about Illinois’ “strong homeschooling lobby.”

In an interview on WGN radio about their story, reporters Parker and Hunsdorfer said this powerful “lobby” keeps homeschool laws off the books and, by extension, is responsible for L.J.’s suffering.

In the ProPublica article as well as on WGN Radio and Illinois Public Radio, the reporters even bemoaned families that brought cherry pies to the state capitol when they met with lawmakers to voice their opposition to homeschool regulation.

“Homeschool families have flooded the capitol to protest. Or they have also engaged in letter-writing campaigns to the point of almost shutting lawmakers’ emails down,” Parker said in another interview on Illinois Public Radio. “I think that shows you how strong the homeschool contingency is.”

As much as even I, an Illinois resident, would like to say that homeschooling is sweeping our deep-blue state, the reality is that public schoolers (and their politically powerful public school teachers unions) far outweigh any political influence of homeschoolers. According to John Hopkins University, less than 3.5 percent of kids in grades K-12 in Illinois are homeschooled. An even smaller percentage trek to the state capitol with cherry pies.

But let’s just play this out. Suppose the state actually did impose any of the regulations that reporters Parker and Hundsdorfer mentioned, such as registration, testing, a review of teaching methods, etc. Do you think L.J.’s parents would have complied? No. Because they weren’t homeschooling, and apparently they couldn’t even feed him a bowl of cereal. And then what? The same child welfare workers who left him with neglectful parents for a year would be called?

There’s a reason homeschooling is becoming so popular. Whether you personally homeschool or not, this is something to celebrate. Every kid deserves exactly the education he or she needs, and who better to deliver this education than the parents who know their child best?

It’s dishonest and unacceptable to link child abusers who lie about homeschooling with committed parents who have chosen the very special and unique vocation of actually homeschooling.

More importantly, we cannot concede that more government oversight, involvement, or intrusion into our families’ lives will improve anything or protect anyone. More often than not, government is the entity that fails our children in the worst ways.

Just look at L.J.


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