The Accountability of NC Home Educators

24 Aug 2013

The Rowan County case of a missing girl, Erica Parsons, whose adopted parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, filed an intent to homeschool but were not legally homeschooling Erica has caused some to question NC home education practices and law.

The NC state law governing home education, Article 39 of chapter 115C of the General Statutes, includes the requirements:  The home educating family must notify the state of their intent, provide instruction to their students, maintain records of attendance and immunization, operate on a regular schedule, and annually take a nationally-standardized assessment, keeping the results on file for at least a year, and make available to a state representative upon inspection.

NCHE believes that North Carolina homeschool law is a good one with the right amount of accountability for those who will obey law and be active citizens. NCHE is concerned about the abuse or neglect of any child and has discussed what we can do to help prevent this. The law in NC is that any citizen who suspects an adult of engaging in child abuse or neglect is to report it to the authorities.   We have communicated this law to our constituents.  It is important for the public to understand that NC public schools are not uniquely charged or empowered with preventing child abuse or neglect.  NC public schools are charged with educational services to citizens who choose to forgo other means of providing an education to their children. Ongoing child abuse and neglect speaks to a larger problem of our society, the loss of community.  The typical homeschooling family is engaged and active in their community. The typical home educator participates in religious and civic associations.  They collaborate with other homeschoolers and frequent educational public services, like parks,  museums and science centers.

NC law rightly recognizes that educational entities, such as private schools and homeschools, which do not receive funds from the state for educational services, are not responsible to the state to give account of the educational progress of students. In contrast, NC public schools are taxpayer-funded. Therefore they are accountable to NC citizens for the educational progress of enrolled students.

However, NC's home education law recognizes that attendance records and assessment results are useful for educational accountability. There is ample evidence that homeschoolers are making good use of these records and results.

In a study of homeschool students published in 2011, NC homeschool students ranked 84% in nationally standardized achievement tests. That means they scored higher than 83% of the students in the nation. The national average, by definition, is 50%.

In legal principle, NC's home education law functions similar to the car child restraint laws. These laws strike an important balance between protecting children and maintaining the freedom of parents to act. When a family disregards the law, children are endangered. The authorities do what they can to make sure that parents obey these laws, but in the case of child restraint laws, to stop and inspect every car on the road to make sure the parent is obeying these laws is to severally restrict the capacity to travel and at a great financial expense to the state.  Responsible parents are citizens who have a high regard for good laws, thus providing an optimal journey for all those involved.

Each NC citizen bears responsibility for the welfare of our children.  The typical NC homeschool family is deeply invested in the welfare of children. The typical NC homeschool family supports public education through taxes, educates responsibly in the home, is an active community member and has a high regard for the law.

It is individuals who disregard the law who endanger the welfare of others. They are the ones who need to be held accountable.


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