Tragedy Raises Question about Peer Socialization

Article excerpt

The heart of every parent in America ached in sympathy for those who suffered a tragic loss in the recent school massacre in Littleton, Colo. However, mixed with the sympathy was, for many, anxiety about the safety of their own children. "Will my child's school be next?" is a thought on the minds of countless American parents.

For some, the Colorado tragedy was the final straw. The day after the killing spree erupted onto our TV screens, the phones at the Home School Legal Defense Association began to ring with a steady rhythm: "I can't take it any more. I have been thinking of home-schooling. This is it."

For some time, violence in schools - usually a physical assault experienced by their own child - has been a strong motivation for parents to home-school. I defended a family in Tennessee who began home-schooling after the blouse of the couple's daughter was ripped open in her home-room class by a relentless suitor who would not take no for an answer.

A goodly number of other children have experienced the teasing, pushing, hitting and intimidation of schoolyard bullies. School officials usually respond to parents' worries with little more than sighs of frustration. One couple in Iowa began home-schooling their daughter in her senior year after she was sexually assaulted by the star football player. School officials were more concerned about his status and protection than the safety of the girl.

Immediately after the Colorado shootings, several schools across the nation found that they had students who were so warped that they showed up the next day or two in black trench coats and some even pretended to shoot guns. One press account indicated four such incidents in Pennsylvania alone.

So much for the idea that "it can't happen here." It probably won't happen in your child's school, but it would be foolish to think that it can't.

All parents should start asking themselves a question usually faced only by home-schoolers: What about socialization? Home-school parents get hit with this intended rhetorical trump card from people who think that a home-educated child is missing something important that is inherent and unique to the halls of a typical high school. …