Anti-homeschoolers like Jane Gross would like you to believe that parents like Banita Jacks, who has been charged with murdering her four daughters, use homeschooling as an excuse to get their children out of the public eye so they can abuse their children without being detected.
The lack of supervision of the home-schooling process, some experts say, may have made it easier last year for Ms. Jacks to withdraw her children from school and the prying eyes of teachers, social workers and other professionals who otherwise might have detected signs of abuse and neglect of the girls.¹
Homeschoolers are doing what it takes to make sure their kids get a rounded education. My children are involved in church activities, sports, private music lessons, private art lessons, and a co op that meets once a week on top of neighbors, friends, and relatives that we socialize with regularly. My children, as are many homeschoolers, are under close contact and scrutiny of private instructors, friends, neighbors, relatives and are involved in small groups of 10-15 children through sports, church activities, and co op. If anyone is under prying eyes that might detect signs of abuse and neglect, it’s homeschoolers. NHERI reports that
home schooled students are just as involved in out-of-school and extracurricular activities that predict leadership in adulthood as are those in the comparison private school (that was comprised of students more involved than those in public schools).
The facts are that professionals did detect signs of abuse or neglect and reported them. Unfortunately for these children, the social workers did not put a lot of effort into contacting the family and ensuring that the children were ok.
A social worker at the school where the oldest girl was a student, Kathy Lopes, tried twice in April to raise concerns about the family.
At a news conference Monday, Fenty played tapes of two calls Lopes made after the girl, Brittany Jacks, stopped going to school. The social worker describes visiting the house, but not being let in by the mother, Banita Jacks. ²
Lopes describes her frustration of being transferred among several departments. Once she did get someone, she reported her belief that the mother was mentally ill and holding the children hostage.
In July 2006, a nurse who had been treating the father of Jacks’ youngest two daughters contacted the Child and Family Services hot line to report the family was living in a van and that both parents were struggling with substance abuse, officials said. The nurse couldn’t provide an address for the family so social workers did not follow up. ²
You would think that allegations from a nurse saying that the family was living in a van would be taken seriously and that much more effort would be taken into locating the family. Less than a year later a school social worker called saying that she suspected that the mother was mentally ill and holding the children hostage. It’s not like these were anonymous calls or calls from disgruntled neighbors. These were calls from a nurse and a social worker that are trained to look for these things and required by law to report them.
Terrie Louden, who lived next door to Mrs. Jacks, recently tried helping the family.
Louden says she and other neighbors tried to help Banita Jacks, giving her food and water in recent months when they learned her utilities had been cut off. Louden says she thought the girls were living elsewhere.³
The city of Washington D.C. has admitted fault by firing six employees for improperly handling concerns about these girls. This is a horrible tragedy that could’ve been avoided if social workers had done their jobs. Mrs. Jacks might have withdrawn her children from government school, but I’m not convinced that she truly was educating them at home. Again, if the social workers had done their jobs this probably would’ve been revealed. More government regulation is not what is needed. What is needed is the government doing the job it already has.
Update: 1/21/2008. Worldnet Daily article.