California lawmakers raise questions about 'torture house' and home schooling
California Assemblyman Jose Medina believes that the "torture house" where 16 children were held in captivity, starved, and beaten happened because of poor oversight of private and home schools.
He will introduce a bill to provide the state with oversight powers that will have an unknown effect on home schooling.
No state agency regulates or oversees private schools in California. The California Department of Education said in a statement this week that it is "sickened by this tragedy" but the department "does not approve, monitor, inspect, or oversee private schools" but would "gladly" work to change the laws.
Documents show that David Turpin filed private school affidavits, including in October of 2017, listing him as the principal of "Sandcastle Day School" and with a yahoo account as an email address.
Private schools are subject to an annual inspection by the state or local fire marshal. But the Turpins never alerted Perris city officials they were operating one at their home, Fire Marshal Dave Martinez told NBC News this week.
"It's a home-school so it's not licensed," he said. "If it was a licensed facility, it would trigger our inspections."
The superintendent of the Perris Union High School District said this week that the district has no oversight of home schools. An official with the Murrieta school district, where the Turpins used to live and where David Turpin also previously filed an affidavit for a private school, also said the district had no involvement.
Perris Union High School District Superintendent Grant Bennett said his district is not told when a private school is operating in the district. He thinks the law should be changed. "Someone need to be overseeing this," he said Friday.
Scott Roark, a spokesman for the California Department of Education, said the policy is that after a private school affidavit is filed noting six or more students, a federal code is generated for that school and the local district is notified. The local district usually sends a letter to the school that its eligible for federal assistance, but the school does not have to respond, and some don't.
Obviously, no one wants a repeat of the horror house those kids lived in. It's unclear whether they received any education at all.
And perhaps some oversight is in order considering the fact that parents like the Turpins can take advantage of current law:
Coleman said her group, which advocates for responsible home schooling, wants a requirement that home-schooled children in California have some sort of annual assessment by a mandated reporter so that abuse or neglect can more easily be identified.
"That would ensure that the child is in the presence of a mandated reporter at least once a year," Coleman said. She and the legislative policy analyst for the group wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times this week about abuse in the home-school system.
"We recommend requiring the sorts of things that responsible home-schooling parents already do," said Coleman, who was home-schooled herself from kindergarten through 12th grade in Indiana. "Our goal is not to make it harder for those parents to home-school, our goal is to make it harder for parents like the Turpins to home-school,” she said.
The problem is the animus toward home schooling from teachers unions and whether they would hijack any legislation and turn it into a nightmare for parents who wish to homeschool their kids. Given the power of teachers unions in California, this fear is not without foundation.
Parents home school their kids for a variety of reasons. But there is almost universal agreement among parents that they home school their kids because the local public schools were inadequate. For some, there is also a question of their children's safety - an irony considering that legislation will seek to protect kids from abuse.
The bottom line is that, while some lawmakers will mean well, there is a real danger that road blocks will be placed in the way of parents looking to home school their children. These barriers could include a blizzard of paperwork or onerous requirements about fire safety and other measures designed to "protect" children in their own home.
If the teachers unions get their way, the path to home schooling will be strewn with boulders.