January 12, 2008

Red herrings, falling through the cracks, homework, and choice

Kate at I Think Therefore I Blog hits the nail on the head about The New York Times's misguided and insufficiently researched article today about the tragic deaths in Washington, DC, of four children. Kate has also done her research, something that can't be said for Times reporter Jane Gross. Read Kate's post here. And this thorough account at The Washington Post; here is only the tip of the iceberg,
A single parent at 16, eventually dependent on public assistance, she spent years tangled in court cases, seeking financial support from the fathers of two of her girls. She lifted herself up for a time -- learned a skill, cosmetology. With a new boyfriend, and two more daughters, she seemed happy, doting on her girls. Then she plunged into poverty and homelessness.

After her boyfriend succumbed to cancer last winter, acquaintances said, she lost her grip entirely.
As for the claims by The Times's "experts" --
Clive R. Belfield, a professor of economics at Queens College and formerly a researcher at the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia Teachers College, said that “limited compliance and follow-up” [of home schoolers] gave abusive families “an excuse to get out of being observed.”

Mitchell L. Stevens, an associate professor of education and sociology at New York University, said school officials, who are required by law to report suspicion of child abuse, were society’s best watchdogs of how parents treat children.

“Home schooling removes children from a lot of that surveillance,” Mr. Stevens said, adding that the vast majority of home schooling families are “overwhelmingly trustworthy people who place a very high value on parental autonomy.” And thanks to the advocacy of the legal defense fund, he continued, “they have been largely successful since the late 1980s in getting the law to favor parental rights.”
-- the most cursory search of GoogleNews turns up the following:

from CNN, January 11, 2008: "It's happened again. A teacher is accused of having sex with a student and, like many times before, cell phone calls and texting reportedly had a role in sexually abusing a minor."

from a Florida CBS affiliate, January 8, 2008: "Broward County School Superintendent James Notter has issued a memo reminding all teachers and principals on the district's policy for reporting abuse. This comes after a parent, whose child attends ... Middle School, was outraged after her daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted during the time in which she was supposed to be in constant supervision by school staff. To make matters worse, no one informed the mother of what happened until two days later."

another Florida TV news station, December 27, 2007: "The state attorney's office recently announced child abuse and child neglect charges against a Paxon Middle School physical education teacher have been dropped. Aaron Jackson was arrested earlier this month after investigators said he encouraged a father to come to the school to whip his son with a belt. They said Jackson also gave the dad a room near the gym, where he could whip the boy. Earlier this month, authorities said Jackson called 41-year-old Henry Crimes and told him to come to the school with a belt to discipline his 13-year-old son."

from The Arizona Republic, December 20, 2007: "A... High School guidance counselor accused of twice failing to report child abuse is on administrative leave and could face criminal charges. Deborah Ray is the second southwest Valley educator removed from a campus for disciplinary issues in recent months. ... According to police:
* A 16-year-old girl reported in March that an unidentified person had attempted to molest her.
* A 17-year-old girl reported in April that she had suffered physical abuse."

And this past week marked the second anniversary of the murder of Nixzmary Brown, age 7, of Brooklyn, New York, as covered by The New York Times, January 12, 2008

And what of the infants and children too young for school? More from a quick survey of GoogleNews:

from The Florida Sun-Sentinel, January 10, 2008: "A grandmother pleaded no contest today to aggravated manslaughter and aggravated child abuse for the death of a 3-year-old boy who was dipped in scalding water as punishment and left to suffer for a week until dying."

from the Rochester, Minnesota Post-Bulletin, January 12, 2008: "Ty'Shay Staten was still in diapers when she became a victim of violence. She died this week at age 4, nearly three years after being shaken and thrown down a flight of stairs by her father. Timothy Lee Staten is serving more than 16 years in prison for nearly killing his daughter in March 2005. Police officers responding to Staten's Red Wing home for a domestic disturbance witnessed Staten shaking Ty'Shay, who had also been bitten in the cheek and torso, before he threw her down the stairs. At his sentencing in 2006 for second-degree attempted intentional homicide, Staten said he was under the influence of drugs at the time. Ty'Shay suffered a fractured skull among other injuries from the assault. She was at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester for several months, and eventually placed in foster care."

from The Baltimore Sun, January 9, 2008: "Child Protective Services had already taken two of her daughters, but Vernice Harris was raising her third girl amid squalor and boarded-up rowhouses on East 25th Street. Apparently frustrated that the crying 2-year-old was disturbing her and her drug-addicted friends, Harris began giving the girl methadone to keep her quiet, according to police charging documents. Harris told authorities that she found the girl unresponsive in an upstairs bedroom about 3 a.m. June 5. She carried the toddler downstairs, where friends and paramedics were unable to revive her. Two months later, medical examiners ruled that Bryanna Ashley Harris' death was the result of a methadone overdose and a beating to her stomach."

Whether or not you home school, you should decide the best use of your tax dollars to help children -- to supervise home schooling parents, the majority of whom are law abiding and mentally and physically healthy; or to unburden already overburdened Family Court judges, as in New York, and to relieve overworked and train undertrained staff in child welfare systems throughout North America. You choose. This is not about home schooling, but putting scarce dollars, time, and people where they will best be used to save children's lives.

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