Friday, January 11, 2008

Homeschooling Not to Blame for DC Tragedy

Four girls are dead in Washington, D.C., apparently murdered by their mother, and the district Superintendent of Schools Deborah Gist blames homeschooling:

"The tragic event highlights the failure of not having home school policies."

Without question, the deaths of 5-year-old Aja Fogle, 6-year-old N'Kiah Fogle, 11-year-old Britney Jacks, and 17-year-old Tatianna Jacks are certainly tragic. But let's examine what we know about the case:

  • The mother, Banita Jacks, had 4 children by 3 different men, the first when she was only 16 years old.
  • She had past run-ins with the law.
  • She, the children, and the father of the youngest 2 girls, Nathanial Fogle, spent 4 months in a city-run homeless shelter in the winter of 2006.
  • In the summer of 2006, a nurse treating Mr. Fogle for leukemia called the city's Child and Family Services to report that both parents had substance abuse problems and the family was living in a van. The CFS worker failed to open a case because the family lacked a fixed address.
  • After Mr. Fogle died in February 2007, Ms. Jacks and the children did not attend the funeral. A relative of Mr. Fogle's said that when he last saw the children in May, they were unaware of their father's death.
  • In March 2007, Ms. Jacks withdrew the three younger children from school, claiming that she was going to homeschool them. The withdrawal was processed by a relative or close friend of Ms. Jacks with no questions asked.
  • At the end of April, a social worker at the oldest daughter's school became concerned with the girl's truancy and went to the home twice. After Ms. Jacks denied her entry, the social worker became concerned about her mental state and called CFS.
  • In May, CFS attempted to visit the Jacks home but no one answered the door. On May 16, CFS apparently concluded that Ms. Jacks had moved to her mother's home in Maryland, without contacting Ms. Jacks' mom to see if this really was the case. CFS contacted its counterparts in Maryland and closed their file.
  • In mid-June, Maryland informed DC CFS that it had been unable to locate Ms. Jacks and the children at the mom's home. CFS failed to re-open its file.
Clearly, this tragedy isn't about homeschool regulations- it's about a deeply troubled family who managed to fall through the cracks in our child welfare system. Red flags were raised about Ms. Jacks well prior to her removal of the children from the government-run school system. Why did she not receive the help she needed for her substance abuse and mental health problems? Why did CFS fail to act on the nurse's report in summer 2006? Why did it close its file in May without ascertaining whether the family had indeed moved out of its jurisdiction? Why did it not re-open it upon hearing from Maryland in June?

Let's stop pointing fingers at homeschooling and reform the child welfare system so that no more kids wind up victims of homicidal child abuse and/or neglect.


Lucrecia Mouser said...

Thank you for providing that information. Most people just see the words homeschooling and nothing else matters. This woman obviously had many problems that were overlooked. It is a sad and tragic outcome.

Lisa said...

Good info, indeed! I wish we could broadcast it, as you wrote it, over all the media! Homeschooling is an easy "fallguy" for a society that is threatened by homeschooling because its very existence points out so very many flaws in the worldview of the mainstream. Flaws it doesn't want to admit, much less fix.

Mrs. C said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog. Obviously we disagree about certain aspects of this news story.

I think we're in agreement that this has nothing whatsoever to do with homeschooling, however. Interesting how that gets pointed out. How often is it pointed out when someone does something wrong and they or their children are in public school? Hmm.. guess that information doesn't count then.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the public education system is at fault when violence and abuse happens- the fault clearly lies with the abuser/offender. The social worker system, however, is tremendously twisted, as is seen in thise case.

Interestingly enough, the public edcuation system itself does claim to be the 'surrogate' parent- through programs to feed kids, address health and mental issues, provide counseling, and deny the possibility that parents could adequately care for their own children. Just read the NEA resolutions for 2007. And I read an article awhile back in a professional pediatric magazine where the doctor/author assumed that homeschooled children required more supervision by pediatricians because unless the child is in school, their health would not be adequately addressed. Huh? Wha?

When a truant child is abused, and the term 'homeschooling' is trotted out, the claim is that if the child had been in PS, then the abuse couldn't have happened. This is patently absurd, as most abuse occurs before a child reaches school age, and every case of 'the dark side of homeschooling' that has been published, the families in question have been in the PS system for years, and were truant, not homeschoolers. In those cases, the CPS system clearly failed to pursue and prosecute these offenders- but again, the blame for the abusive behavior itself lies with the abusers.

I hope the distinction I am attempting to make is clear.

Sprittibee said...

Amen to that!

Pointing the finger at homeschooling clearly helps point it AWAY from CFS, doesn't it now?!