WSVN — The number of parents choosing to teach their kids at home has almost doubled in a decade but children’s advocates say a loophole in a Florida law is putting children in danger. 7’s Belkys Nerey has more in the special assignment report, "Hidden at Home."
For most children, the school day starts with a ride on the bus. For others, the living room is their classroom.
Rebekah Dasari, Coalition for Responsible Home Education: "I had a really good home school experience. My parents were making sure we were meeting all the educational requirements."
But not all home-schooled children are getting lessons in reading and math.
Laura, abused in home school: "You needed to be spanked until your spirit had been broken. Some are learning about abuse. I would be punished for missing a fork while loading the dishwasher."
Laura asked to hide her identity because her younger siblings still live with her parents.
Laura: "I worry about my siblings every day."
Advocates say there is reason to worry about abuse in home schools.
Rebekah Dasari: "Children just get forgotten because of the loopholes in the law."
Studies show deaths from child abuse are higher for kids taught at home.
Rebekah Dasari: "The abuse can become more severe because there’s no one that’s able to intervene in a lot of cases."
One hundred and eleven home-schooled children have died from abuse since 2000.
Laura: "These kids have no outside influence. They don’t have teachers, they don’t have friends, and even parents who are known to abuse their children can educate them at home."
Ten-year-old twins Nubia and Victor Barahona were pulled out of public school and then home-schooled after teachers reported abuse. Nubia was found bludgeoned to death, while Victor barely survived being doused with chemicals by their adoptive father. And Janiya Thomas’ body was found hidden in a freezer by her mother, who is facing murder charges. She had been accused of child abuse 11 times, yet she was still able to home-school her daughter.
Advocates say it’s time for a tougher approval process, including background checks.
Rebekah Dasari: "People who are convicted of child abuse would not be allowed to home-school, and they want regular monitoring of the kids."
Rebekah Dasari: "Having people outside the family would really provide a degree of protection that a lot of children don’t have."
Laura says oversight could have saved these children.
Laura: "It’s not home schooling’s fault that abusive parents use home schooling to hide the abuse. However, we need to catch the kids who have fallen through the cracks."
Draft legislation has been created, but the group is still waiting to get a lawmaker to sponsor the changes. The proposed changes are on our website.
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Coalition for Responsible Home Education: