Children deserve to be safe. This is the most important reason for taking child abuse seriously. This is also why I care so passionately about educating homeschoolers about child protection and child abuse prevention.
But there is another important reason why your homeschool organization should take child abuse seriously: to protect yourself from costly court cases.
In 2016, Richard Hammar at Church Law and Tax released the findings of a study of thousands of published and unpublished rulings by state appellate and federal courts in 2015 that pertain to religious organizations. Hammar’s study identified the top reasons why these organizations go to court. And the number one reason? You guessed it. Child abuse.
Sadly, for several years the sexual molestation of minors has been the number one reason that churches went to court. Victims in these cases generally allege that a church is responsible for their injuries on the basis of negligent selection, retention, or supervision of the perpetrator. Churches have lost many of these cases due to their failure to implement appropriate safeguards in the selection and supervision of employees and volunteers who work with minors.
Incidents of sexual misconduct involving minor victims can be devastating to the victim, the victim’s family, the offender, church leadership, and the church itself.
Because this issue remains the number one reason churches go to court, and because of the significant harm that can be done to children, their families, and church leaders, churches need to take an aggressive position on this matter. Churches must implement policies and procedures that demonstrate proper screening and training of staff and volunteers, proper processes for reporting actual and suspected cases of abuse, and specific attention to to proper supervision and other measures that ensure accountability.
This should be a wake-up call for all homeschool organizations. While there is no study yet of how many homeschool organizations should gone to court over child abuse, there are plenty of high-profile cases—such as the folding of Vision Forum and the current lawsuit against the Institute in Basic Life Principles—that demonstrate the vast toll that child abuse can take, not only on children and families but also on organizations that fail to protect against and respond properly to child abuse.
This is why it is absolutely vital that each and every homeschool organization—whether that organization is a local co-op or a state organization or a national ministry—has an adequate child protection policy. This is why it is so important that homeschool organizations educate their members about child protection and child abuse prevention.
If you don’t know if your homeschool organization has a child protection policy, ask. If they do, ask to review it. Make sure if is up-to-date and adequate. If they don’t or if it is lacking, make sure to fix that!
Author: R.L. Stollar
R.L. Stollar is the Executive Director of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out.