Opinion, WVPA Sharing

Opinion: Homeschooling not to blame for Boone County tragedy

By State Senator Patricia Rucker

The recent tragedy of Kyneddi Miller in Boone County is a heartbreaking and grievous tragedy that should never have occurred. It is imperative to identify the true causes of this failure, rectify them if possible, and demand accountability. Sadly, instead of taking responsibility for the failures that resulted in this death, leaders are resorting to blame-shifting and scapegoating homeschooling laws rather than addressing the real causes.

In the case of Kyneddi Miller, we know that she had stopped attending public school for two years before a notice of intent to homeschool was submitted. Why didn’t this event trigger a truancy investigation? It appears that informal referrals were made to CPS, but they were not followed up. The family had previous reports of abuse and neglect, so when these referrals were made, CPS should have intervened to prevent the tragedy. When mandatory assessments were not submitted, county officials had every tool they needed to follow up and intervene. Regrettably, this did not happen.

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. How can new laws work when government officials won’t even follow the ones that are on the books? Blaming homeschooling laws for this tragedy is misguided and unjust, casting unwarranted aspersions on a population that overwhelmingly performs well.

It is no secret that the state’s CPS system is overworked and underfunded. Workers have too many reports and are mandated to follow inflexible procedures, which require them to waste time on too many frivolous reports instead of being able to thoroughly investigate situations like Kyneddi’s. National statistics bear this out, with nearly 90% of all reports of abuse and neglect ending up unfounded. This tremendous number of false positives wastes valuable resources that could be used to help prevent tragedies like Kyneddi Miller’s. We can and must do better. In the coming legislative session, I will be filing legislation to address this issue.

Homeschooling is proven to be an effective method of education, and in the vast majority of situations, parents will do what is best for their children. If there are ways to provide support for those in need, then we should. Parents need more choices and support, not less.  As we move forward, it is my earnest hope that the executive branch will engage in introspection and acknowledge where they failed this child. Resorting to blame-shifting and scapegoating only distracts from the real issues and fails all our children. We have a collective obligation to be better and to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

Senator Patricia Rucker represents the 16th Senatorial District which includes Jefferson County and part of Berkeley County. She serves as the Chairman of the Committee on School Choice.

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