HSLDA is watching developments in West Virginia with keen interest and preparing to ally with supporters in defense of freedom should the state legislature propose new homeschool restrictions. It’s the sort of thing we’ve been doing for more than 40 years.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced in June that he is considering pushing for new homeschooling restrictions in response to the death of 14-year-old Kyneddi Miller of Boone County. He said he may ask lawmakers to enact stricter oversight in a special session that could be convened as early as August.

State school Superintendent Michele L. Blatt said at the press conference that the state’s Department of Education is “eager” to work with the legislature to increase restrictions on homeschooling.

Sad Picture

Although details concerning the girl’s educational status and her family’s contact with Child Protective Service investigators are sparse, what has been reported paints a very sad picture.

According to news reports, Kyneddi’s mother withdrew her from public school and filed under the homeschooling statute in 2021. Kyneddi told an officer, who visited her home in 2023 to conduct a welfare check, that she didn’t want to be around people because she was afraid of COVID-19. The police reported that Kyneddi appeared to be OK, but referred the case to CPS.

In the days following the report of Kynnedi’s death, public concern turned into outrage as the government agencies tried to stonewall and shift blame. Fingers pointed all the way to the governor’s office when it appeared he wasn’t holding agencies accountable.

After issuing a mea culpa, Gov. Justice, in turn, pointed his finger at homeschooling assessment laws.

A false narrative

Many state officials and media outlets are using Kyneddi’s death to further a false narrative about homeschooling, claiming that homeschooling puts children at risk by distancing them from individuals who are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect, such as public school officials, medical professionals, and law enforcement officers. Yet the facts demonstrate that Kynnedi’s situation was already known to child protective agencies, a familiar pattern in such cases.

There is no evidence that homeschool students are at a greater risk for abuse or neglect than any other demographic or that they are generally isolated from people who could help them. This false narrative, however, casts all homeschooling parents under suspicion based on the heinous acts of a few.

It’s a narrative that HSLDA rejects. On the contrary, we believe a chief reason homeschooling works so well is because it allows students to learn in the one place they are most likely to enjoy affirmation and safety—in their own homes, guided by loving parents.

Multiple Failures

HSLDA is deeply troubled by the death of Kyneddi, and we join our voices with those who wish to see reforms in the child welfare and law enforcement systems that were supposed to protect her.

As for how to respond to the recent tragedy in West Virginia, we agree with state Senator Patricia Rucker, who said it was wrong to blame Kyneddi’s death on homeschool regulations, since the current law already gives officials authority to pursue legal repercussions for families who fail to file required documents.

“It is wholly inappropriate and unacceptable to attribute this tragic death to homeschooling, which unfairly maligns the thousands of West Virginia families who are responsibly and effectively educating their children,” she said.

Rucker also questioned why multiple contacts between Kyneddi’s family, CPS, and police failed to result in an intervention that might have protected the teen.

Though it’s uncertain when and if West Virginia’s legislature will act on homeschooling, HSLDA is working with state legislators and homeschool organizations across the state, such as Christian Home Educators of West Virginia and West Virginia Home Educator’s Association, to protect the right of parents to direct their children’s education.

Whether it is in West Virginia or any other state or territory, HSLDA remains committed to preserving homeschool freedom. We will continue to report on the situation as it develops.