The country has been repulsed and horrified by the case of the Turpin family in California. David and Louise Turpin, monsters in vaguely human form, have been arrested for torturing and tormenting their 13 children. The Turpin kids — some of them now adults in their twenties — were emaciated, filthy, and shackled to their beds with chains when police found them. The house was strewn with the carcasses of dead dogs and cats and various other debris. The details get even more disturbing from there.
The evil done by these "parents" to their children cannot be fathomed or understood. All we can say is that the Devil is constantly roaming the world seeking a place to take up residence, and he found quite the welcoming environment inside the home and hearts of these two savages. May God have mercy on them, and may the Justice System have none.
But there is one other detail about the Turpin family that has garnered an increasing amount of attention over the past several days: David and Louise were "homeschooling" their children. I must put quotes around the word because there is no evidence that they did any schooling at all. Be that as it may, proponents of the Nanny State have seized on this angle of the story and used it as an excuse to cast a net of suspicion over all homeschool families. We are now told that this abuse happened because California has "no rules" governing homeschool. Lawmakers have decided that homeschool parents need more "oversight" because this one horrific case must be commonplace. Many others have joined the chorus, panicking over the alleged lack of supervision enjoyed by homeschool parents.
Of course, the first problem with this narrative is that it's completely false. Homeschoolers in California are subject to "rules." Quite a few of them, in fact. Here's one rule that applies to families like the Turpins who elect to register their homes as private schools: they are supposed to be inspected by the fire marshal on an annual basis. One assumes that it would not have taken long for a fire marshal to notice all of the dead animals on the ground and the chains and padlocks on the beds. But, for some reason, these inspections never happened. Once again, an incompetent government failed to enforce its own regulations, and its response to its own failure is to call for more regulations that it won't enforce.
The fire marshal isn't the only one who dropped the ball. Neighbors have reported that they witnessed disturbing behavior on the part of the children and their parents, yet nobody ever called the police. One neighbor said he and his wife discussed the possibility of alerting the authorities but decided against it because they "didn't want to have repercussions" with the Turpin family, whatever that means. This was not a case of homeschool allowing abusers to cover their tracks. They didn't cover their tracks. Plenty of people knew, or suspected, yet chose not to act. The abuse continued not because of homeschool, but because of incompetence by the local authorities and cowardice by the neighbors. No law is going to fix either of those problems.
More to the point, abuse by home educators is not endemic. I'll tell you what is endemic: abuse by public school teachers. It is estimated that around 10% of students currently in public school have been abused by a teacher or faculty member. That amounts to 4.5 million kids. Why aren't we hearing lawmakers call for better oversight of public school teachers? The Week published an article last week decrying the "sickening danger of homeschooling." When will it tell us about the sickening danger of an institution that subjects millions of children to sexual abuse?
The treatment suffered by the Turpin children is horrendous and depraved, but it is an anomaly among home educators. It's not as though thousands upon thousands of homeschool parents have their starving, unwashed kids chained to a bedpost. On the other hand, the sexual abuse problem in public school is a verified national crisis — 100 times worse than it ever was in the Catholic Church, in fact — even if we decline to acknowledge it. And this is to say nothing of student-on-student sexual assault. Over 17,000 such cases were reported in a four year timeframe.
But remember: homeschool is the problem.
And this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Public schools can also often be nests of drug and gang activity, with 27% of public school kids attending schools that are "gang and drug infected." Incidents of theft and violence in schools have also been on the rise in recent years. And the list goes on and on. The State can't even figure out how to get the narcotics out of its classrooms or the sex predators out of its teacher's lounges, yet we think these same ineffectual bureaucrats must be granted jurisdiction over our families? We worry that that children may be in danger if they are left in their own parents' care without government supervision, even though the children directly under government supervision are often neglected, exploited, and abused? It makes no sense.
There is not any evidence that homeschool is more dangerous for a child than public school. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that the opposite is the case. So, instead of asking the government to take charge of our families, perhaps we should ask it to take charge of its own affairs. To this point, it has not shown itself capable of doing even that much.