To someone of my generation (I’m proudly Gen-X), the word “summit” evokes President Carter bringing warring sides of the Middle East together, or President Reagan meeting in icy Reykjavik with General Secretary Gorbachev.
Well, the homeschool community may be interested in a summit scheduled for June 18-19 at Harvard Law School to discuss “a controversial practice”—homeschooling.*
The Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform is being billed as a means of bringing together leaders in education and child welfare policy to discuss child rights and homeschooling.
- Dr. Rachel Coleman, founder of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education and co-founder of Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. She is expected to reiterate her organization’s views that homeschooling must be more firmly regulated by the government. Proposed regulations include a call for annual evaluation of every homeschooled student.
- Samantha Field, author of “Meet HSLDA, The Most Powerful Religious-Right Lobby You’ve Never Heard Of.” The article starts by declaring, “The Home School Legal Defense Association has fomented a culture of suspicion and wild conspiracy theories that may put children in danger.”
- Carmen Longoria-Green, litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Green’s 2015 Note for the Georgetown Law Review describes the current homeschool environment as “massively deregulated” and suggests that states should set up a process where homeschooled students could petition a judge to force their parents to send them to public school. (Educational Empowerment: A Child’s Right to Attend Public School, 103 Geo. L.J. 1089) Such a process is necessary, she told the Washington Post, because “It’s unreasonable to expect children to be their own advocates … You need a forum where an outside person looks at the situation and says, ‘Is this person meeting educational outcomes?’ ”
- Dr. Chelsea McCracken, who asserted in 2018 that “Research on homeschooled students’ academic performance has been hampered by the lack of data collected on homeschooled students in most states.”
- Dr. Barbara Knox, who worked at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine as the head of the hospital’s Child Protection Program until 2019, when she voluntarily resigned while under investigation for alleged unprofessional acts including intimidation of her colleagues. She currently works with the Alaska Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services, “a department charged with making medical determinations about whether a child has been abused or not.” Dr. Knox is a leader in the field of pediatric child abuse medicine, a specialty that the Parental Rights Foundation contends can lead to doctors seeing child abuse “lurking behind every injury.”
- James Dwyer, a law professor at the College of William and Mary. He is the professor famous for claiming that “The reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood …”. In his 1994 law review article “Parents’ Religion and Children’s Welfare: Debunking the Doctrine of Parents’ Rights” (82 Calif. L. Rev. 1371), Dwyer argued that “the claim that parents should have child-rearing rights—rather than simply being permitted to perform parental duties and to make certain decisions on a child’s behalf in accordance with the child’s rights—is inconsistent with principles deeply embedded in our law and morality.”
- Professor Robert Reich, whose views on homeschooling can be best summed up by the title of his 2015 editorial in the New York Times: “More Oversight is Needed.”
The summit is being organized by Dwyer and Professor Elizabeth Bartholet. In Bartholet’s recent article in the Arizona Law Review, “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection,” she “recommends a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool.”
A preliminary agenda includes riveting topics such as “The Current Politics: HSLDA Dominance and Tactics”** and “Concerns With Homeschooling.”
The summit looks like a fascinating line-up of speakers, and HSLDA would love to attend. Alas, it’s invitation only, and the exact location is undisclosed. However, we know that many parents homeschool to protect their children from abuse, so if you have questions about the summit, the website states you can contact Crisanne Hazen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 617-496-1684. Additionally, there are a limited number of hotel rooms for summit attendees near the Law School—see the website for further details.
* The title of Professor Dwyer’s 2019 book: Homeschooling: The History and Philosophy of a Controversial Practice
** To be honest, I think this talk alone should be worth the price of admission.