Local News

Death investigations prompt homeschooling recommendations

Posted June 16, 2008 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2008 8:43 p.m. EDT

— A state task force that reviewed the death of a 4-year-old boy at the hands of his adoptive mother recommended more oversight for children taught at home.

The Department of Social Services report on Sean Paddock's death was released last week, hours after the boy's adoptive mother, Lynn Paddock, was convicted of first-degree murder and felony child abuse in his February 2006 death.

The report called for more state monitoring of home schools, including having medical examiners track the school status of children who die under suspicious circumstances.

The six surviving Paddock children testified during the three-week trial that Lynn Paddock homeschooled them after the family moved to Smithfield in 2001, but that the instruction gradually devolved into reading the Bible and copying scripture passages. Several of the children, who have moved to new families, are now a grade or two behind their peers.

More than 68,700 students were homeschooled in 2006-07 in 36,068 schools registered with the state Division of Non-Public Education.

The state requires homeschooled students to take annual tests, but the results don't have to be turned in and aren't tracked by the state. The five-person staff of the Division of Non-Public Instruction doesn't have the resources to maintain those records, officials said.

The state has the right to inspect home schools, and records show that 362 inspections were conducted in the past year – about 1 percent of the home schools registered in the state.

Lynn Paddock did little more than register her home school with the state, according to testimony.

The same day the Paddock was convicted, 13-year-old Tyler McMillan died after being tied to a tree for 18 hours by his father. The family homeschooled the teen and his siblings, according to authorities.

Home-school parents said the two deaths are tragic but shouldn't result in more regulation.

"I really don't think that more government intervention in the world would've stopped (the deaths)," homeschooler Kristie Bloem said. "The vast majority of home schools have careful, loving parents who are dedicated to their children's future."