Freedom of education and school choice are shaping up to be major issues this year, with half a dozen states already introducing legislation to repeal Common Core education standards, and a number of federal bills designed to restore local control of school systems.
But there is one state that apparently didn’t get the memo. An influential government commission in Connecticut is mulling over new restrictions on a parent’s right to homeschool their children.
The controversy dates back to the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School by the emotionally disturbed Adam Lanza. Lanza had been placed in “homebound status” - a technical distinction from homeschooling in that the school still bore some responsibility for his education - by the school district in the eighth grade, before returning to school in the 10th.
This undated photo circulated by law enforcement and provided by NBC News, shows Adam Lanza. Authorities say Lanza killed his mother at their home and then opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before taking his own life, on Friday. (AP Photo/NBC News)
About a year after that, he was allowed to graduate at the end of his junior year. It would be several more years before the 20-year-old Lanza returned to Sandy Hook to shoot 26 people.
Tragedies like this are horrific beyond belief, and it is natural to try to make some sense out of an apparently senseless act. It is natural to want to take active measures to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. But the analysis of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, and its recommendations, are badly flawed, and intrude unnecessarily into parental and educational freedom.
While a massive backlash has caused the commission to back down from its previous attempts to outright prevent parents from homeschooling their children with mental or emotional difficulties, the commission still wants to require such children to be regularly supervised by public school authorities. They are also expanding their recommendation to require that parents who withdraw their children from school continue to adhere to an “individualized education plan.” In other words, you can’t control the content and curriculum of your own child’s education.
[sharequote align="center"]The idea that diversity, rather than conformity, might yield better outcomes is still too radical.[/sharequote]
The problems with this plan are many.
First of all, there’s the attempt to draw a causal connection between a teenager being removed from the supervision of school counselors for one year (ninth grade) and a crazed shooting spree half a decade later. Using vague correlations as grounds for ludicrous assumptions about causation is what government does best, but this is a stretch even by their admittedly low standards.
Second, by what authority do public school officials claim to be remotely effective at preventing violent behavior? Given the 43 school shootings that we observed in 2014 alone, it’s a little strange to claim that public schooling is some sort of cure for mental illness.
The best recipe for a healthy, well-functioning adult is not to lock children in windowless rooms and force them to do math problems for 13 years. The idea that every child is different, and that therefore diversity, rather than conformity, of upbringing might yield better outcomes is apparently still too radical.
Parents often have a very good reason for wanting to withdraw their children from public schools. Whether they are dissatisfied with the curriculum, bullying, dissonance with personal values, or the need to deal with behavioral problems, parents should not have to justify themselves to government for wanting what’s best for their kids.
The purpose of public schools is supposedly to provide opportunity to those who would otherwise not have it, not to dictate the terms of childhood to America’s youth. Contrary to the belief of some progressives, children are not the property of the state, and public school officials have no business imposing themselves on families that have decided to opt out of the system.
The desire to prevent future tragedies is sincere, but to help children with special circumstances, we should be giving them more flexibility in education, not less.
Logan Albright is a research analyst for FreedomWorks, a grassroots service center serving more than 6 million activists, who believe in individual liberty and constitutionally-limited government.
Feature Photo: Getty Images
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