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Elizabeth Bartholet

  • The New One-Room School: Pandemic Learning Pods

    August 20, 2020

    Some Connecticut school districts across the state are getting ready to reopen their doors, but with coronavirus cases rising across the country, more parents are considering keeping children at home, Online learning continues to come with a lot of roadblocks and technical issues for parents, students and teachers. So what is the alternative? How can students get a quality education while still staying safe? ... Guests: ... Elizabeth Bartholet - Morris Wasserstein Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law

  • Young girl sitting with her bunny stuffed animal at a table with a pencil in her hand watching a teacher on a laptop.

    Will online schooling increase child abuse risks?

    August 14, 2020

    As more schools plan for remote learning, Elizabeth Bartholet and James Dwyer argue that school districts, child protective services, and other agencies across the nation must adopt new safeguards to prevent and respond to incidents of child maltreatment.

  • Parents Turn to ‘Learning Pods’ and Piecemeal Solutions to Fill Gaps in Kids’ Schooling

    July 22, 2020

    When Emma Mancha-Sumners saw her school district’s proposed schedule for remote learning this fall, she knew it wouldn’t work for her or her kids...Mancha-Sumners looked into forming a “pod” of families that could at least provide some socialization for her children, who haven’t seen their friends since schools closed in March. She co-created a Facebook group for local families seeking to set up pods, and quickly discovered that many parents were looking for learning pods, which would be run by teachers or tutors and allow families to navigate distance learning. Many families estimated they would each pay $700 or more per month for teachers...Parents are being forced to make difficult choices. Some are leaving their jobs and closing down their businesses. Others are spending thousands of dollars to make sure their children are safe and learning each day. And many more have no idea how they’ll cope with an impossible decision: work or care for their children. The situation is especially dire for single parents, low-income families and those without flexible jobs, who rely on in-person school so they can go to work each day...Experts say the lack of federal, state and district-led solutions for parents means families are on their own, and that will only exacerbate education gaps that already exist. “There’s always an equity issue in the United States, even in non-Covid times,” said Elizabeth Bartholet, professor of law at Harvard Law School and faculty director of Harvard’s Child Advocacy Program. “But now, when kids are at home, privileged parents are going to be able to hire tutors and teachers. They tend to have more flexible schedules, and they will be able to provide a better education for their children than less-privileged parents. Kids who are poor, and Black or Latino kids are disproportionately poor, are more at risk of not learning.”

  • Coronavirus home schooling highlights the religious right’s education system influence

    July 21, 2020

    This past year, millions of families (mine among them) experienced remote learning and entertained the idea of home schooling for the first time. Some of these families are eager to send their kids back to school. Others will make do with remote learning this school year, and still others are certain to take up more seriously the idea of home schooling. When they do, they will discover two things. First, home schooling is already an attractive option for many American families, and it is the reality for an estimated 1.7 million children. Second, home schooling in America generally has become dangerously politicized and unregulated...Elizabeth Bartholet, faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, published an 80-page paper in the Arizona Law Review this year titled "Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection," summarizing years of research and wide survey evidence in the field. Bartholet also planned to participate in an academic conference on the subject (later postponed because of COVID-19). Bartholet told me she was immediately inundated with many hundreds of angry and threatening messages and was the subject of a series of negative articles posted on the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA, a home-schooling advocacy group with hyperconservative leanings founded in 1983, whose founder, Michael Farris, is closely allied with other religious right leaders. In a way, the abuse proved one of Bartholet's central theses: that much of home-schooling advocacy right now is in the hands of a small but belligerent minority who believe that parents have absolute rights over their children and that any form of regulation amounts, in the words of some home-schooling families, to "tyranny." Lawmakers have run into similar resistance.

  • More parents consider homeschooling as permanent option during coronavirus pandemic

    July 20, 2020

    Jacklynn Walters has homeschooled her oldest child for the last 6 years. When schools closed early this year to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, this mom of four says she didn’t have to worry about her children’s education...Walters volunteers as the media director for the homeschooling organization Midwest Parent Educators. She says more parents are inquiring about homeschooling...More parents are choosing home school over in-class instruction when school resumes this fall as school districts roll out their reopening plans during the global health crisis. A recent poll from the American Federation of Children shows 40 percent of respondents are more likely to pursue homeschooling after coronavirus lockdowns...Homeschool critics worry that students will be left behind as more parents consider alternatives. “In this country, we have almost no regulation of homeschool,” said Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet. “Only a dozen states require that parents have any credentials whatsoever. Those states only demand a high school degree.” Bartholet, who serves as the faculty director of Harvard’s Law School's Child Advocacy Program, adds that she supports virtual learning so students can remain safe during the current health crisis but she’s concerned about children’s safety as more parents choose to homeschool permanently. “One of the greatest protections for children against abuse and neglect has been the protection of the mandated reporter system, which means that certain people are designated as mandated reporters and they then have to report any suspected abuse and neglect,” she said.  “Teachers are mandated reporters […] and they constitute the largest group of people who report to child protection authorities abuse and neglect."

  • Homeschooling: Protecting Freedom, Protecting Children

    June 17, 2020

    Featuring Elizabeth Bartholet, Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Child Advocacy Program, Harvard University...Long before COVID-19 forced almost all children to receive education at home, homeschooling—a parental decision to educate their children at home—was growing. For advocates, its purpose and value is to open space for diversity, enabling families to provide education different from what any school offers. Critics fear that it isolates children from the myriad people and ideas in society and can enable child abuse to go unchecked. These positions have recently come into high‐​profile conflict and seem irreconcilable. Are they? Or do both sides have legitimate concerns that can be resolved through compromise? Join us for this timely discussion.

  • Elizabeth Bartholet And Rachel Coleman On Homeschooling’s Potential For Abuse

    June 8, 2020

    In May 2020, Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard Law Professor, called for significant new regulations on homeschooling in the United States. In this extra-long episode, I interview Professor Bartholet about her ideas, research, and proposals. We are joined by Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education — and a grown homeschooler herself — who contributes a wealth of experience and impassioned arguments for increasing oversight of homeschooling. While all three of us have different visions of what “appropriate regulation” might be, we also find areas of agreement. Discussion topics include: Who homeschools in the U.S.? How prevalent is abuse and neglect? What is good and important about homeschooling? What’s the justification for increased regulation? Do bad schools inflict just as much (or more) harm on children than homeschooling? And what are the most essential legal changes that Bartholet and Coleman would each like to see enacted?

  • No Need for Bullying in The Debate on Homeschooling

    May 27, 2020

    An article by Elizabeth Bartholet, Dr. Rachel Coleman, James Dwyer, Milton Gaither, and Frank E. Vandervort: As COVID-19 continues to destroy lives and the economy, forcing millions of American parents to begin teaching their children at home, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took to Twitter to call for shutting down discussion about research on the safety and quality of homeschooling, as well as proposed regulation of that practice. In a series of tweets, both recently took time off from leading the nation’s response to the global pandemic to denounce “barbaric” and “unconstitutional” proposals to safeguard children from abuse and ensure they are educated, calling advocates of such common-sense regulation “radical leftist scholars.” In recent years, we and many others focused on the welfare of children have raised an alarm about the absence of meaningful oversight of homeschooling and the risk this presents for up to 3 million youth across America. In response, a reactionary subset of the homeschooling movement – now including the nation’s top diplomat and the Texas senator and former presidential candidate – has mobilized aggressively to suppress public discussion and prevent any safeguards designed to protect children against maltreatment and ensure they receive a minimum level of education. The recent attacks on academic critique and suggested regulatory reform underscore the need for a civil, data-driven discussion about the advantages and pitfalls of homeschooling and how best to ensure the safe education of all children. While we have varying perspectives on homeschooling, we all recognize that there is enormous variety in the homeschooling population and that many homeschooling parents provide their children with an education far superior to that delivered in their local public schools.

  • Portrait of Dylan Asafo in front of greenery

    Dylan Asafo LL.M. ’20: “I knew that I wanted to do something to transform society for marginalized groups in New Zealand”

    May 20, 2020

    Dylan Asafo LL.M. ’20 plans to use his HLS education to help address the inequalities facing communities of color in New Zealand and the wider Pacific region.

  • A warning on homeschooling

    May 18, 2020

    Nationally renowned child welfare expert Elizabeth Bartholet wants to see a radical transformation in homeschooling. In an article in the Arizona Law Review, “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education and Protection,” she argues that the lack of regulation in the homeschooling system poses a threat to children and society. The Gazette sat down with Bartholet, the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School (HLS), to talk about the problems.

  • photo of professor Elizabeth Bartholet

    A warning on homeschooling

    May 15, 2020

    Nationally renowned child welfare expert Elizabeth Bartholet wants to see a radical transformation in homeschooling.

  • Homeschooling Approaches During, After COVID-19

    April 28, 2020

    As the novel coronavirus began to spread, school districts quickly shut down, closing facilities and shifting classes online. As a result, many parents suddenly found themselves thrust into a new role: teacher. With more than 50,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S., state governments have issued social distancing measures and orders to stay at home. Some government officials have proclaimed that schools won't reopen this spring while some colleges have already moved summer classes online and are looking ahead to the possibility of remote instruction for the fall. Despite the pandemic, the need for an education at all levels continues...Some critics worry about both the safety and efficacy of homeschooling. "Kids are falling through the cracks," says Elizabeth Bartholet, a law professor and faculty director and founder of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard University in Massachusetts. Bartholet is concerned about homeschool children being abused and neglected. Her concern is prompted by the regulatory patchwork that governs homeschooling in the U.S. Even among states with more stringent rules on homeschooling, she says, there is potential for harm to children because state laws often lack oversight of home environments. "Many jurisdictions don't even require homeschoolers to register. And if they do require them to register, they don't enforce the requirements," Bartholet says. "It's really hard to study the overall population."

  • At-risk children need more than virtual visits during the coronavirus pandemic

    April 27, 2020

    An article by Elizabeth BartholetThe US Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that social workers need not see children being monitored in foster care in person, as required by federal law, but can instead use video conferences to reduce the risk of COVID-19. It’s more troubling that social workers are making increasing use of video conferences for children living with the parents who have subjected them to maltreatment, resulting in heightened danger for children. The risk of repeat maltreatment at home is higher today, with the near-universal closing of schools, widespread stay-at-home orders, and the related isolation of families. Child abuse thrives in isolation and in the situations of financial and emotional stress that are part of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. In-home visits would allow child welfare workers to identify signs of abuse or neglect. Homeschooling deprives children of one of their best protections against maltreatment: signs of abuse observed by teachers and other school personnel, who are mandated reporters and responsible for the largest number of reports to state departments of child protective services. Prior to this crisis, there was evidence that homeschooled children were at greater risk for abuse than children attending regular schools. For example, child abuse pediatricians published studies that show a high percentage of seriously abused children were homeschooled.

  • Harvard law professor believes homeschooling can be ‘dangerous’ because it gives parents ‘authoritarian control’ over their children

    April 22, 2020

    A Harvard law professor believes that homeschooling can be 'dangerous' because it gives parents authoritarian control over their children. More than 50 million children in the United States are at home due to the coronavirus pandemic that forced the shut down of schools, restaurants and bars, and other businesses deemed non-essential. While states are developing plans to slowly reopen, it's unclear if that will take weeks or months, which means children will likely be at home for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school. And Harvard law professor, Elizabeth Bartholet, believes that is a 'dangerous' thing. In the May-June issue of Harvard Magazine, Bartholet speaks about her thoughts on children being homeschooled by their parents or guardians. 'The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18?' Bartholet asked. 'I think that's dangerous. I think it's always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority,' she said. Bartholet explained her reasoning by pointing at the possibility of children being abused while at home, especially since teachers are 'mandated reporters' if they suspect child abuse.

  • The Risks of Homeschooling

    April 20, 2020

    A rapidly increasing number of American families are opting out of sending their children to school, choosing instead to educate them at home. Homeschooled kids now account for roughly 3 percent to 4 percent of school-age children in the United States, a number equivalent to those attending charter schools, and larger than the number currently in parochial schools. Yet Elizabeth Bartholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, sees risks for children—and society—in homeschooling, and recommends a presumptive ban on the practice. Homeschooling, she says, not only violates children’s right to a “meaningful education” and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society. “We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling,” Bartholet asserts. All 50 states have laws that make education compulsory, and state constitutions ensure a right to education, “but if you look at the legal regime governing homeschooling, there are very few requirements that parents do anything.” Even apparent requirements such as submitting curricula, or providing evidence that teaching and learning are taking place, she says, aren’t necessarily enforced. Only about a dozen states have rules about the level of education needed by parents who homeschool, she adds. “That means, effectively, that people can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves.” In another handful of states, parents are not required to register their children as homeschooled; they can simply keep their kids at home.

  • New normal of homeschooling

    April 15, 2020

    During his April 10 announcement of the extension of the movement control order (MCO) to April 28, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin used the phrase “the new normal." He wants people to accept that what was usually done before can no longer be done, citing examples such as shaking hands. However, whether the true meaning of “the new normal” is comprehended by many remains to be seen. Addressing the concerns of many parents, the PM also mentioned “home-based learning." I believe this does not refer to conventional homeschooling. Homeschooling was suggested as an alternative to conventional education by American educationalists John Holt and Raymond Moore. For parents who doubted educational reforms, homeschooling became an option. Elizabeth Bartholet, in an article that appeared in a law review journal and titled “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism Vs. Child Rights To Education and Protection," describes homeschooling as a realm of near-absolute parental power. Misuse of it could be detrimental to a child and the nation too.

  • Harvard To Hold Event To Discuss The ‘Educational Deprivation’ That Happens When Parents Homeschool

    April 13, 2020

    Harvard Law School will be hosting a “homeschooling summit” to discuss the “child maltreatment” and “educational deprivation” that happens when parents choose to homeschool their children. The invite-only “Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform” is scheduled to take place June 18-19 and will host speakers from education and child welfare policy backgrounds, as well as academics, policy advocates, and legislators to discuss the “problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or not oversight.” “Experts will lead conversations about the available empirical evidence, the current regulatory environment, proposals for legal reform, and strategies for effecting such reform,” the event page reads. Among the features speakers is Harvard Law’s Elizabeth Bartholet, a co-organizer of the event, who has written extensively about the “rapidly growing homeschool phenomena,” which she describes in the abstract for her 2019 essay — a recommended reading material for the event — “as a “threat” to “children and society.”  “Many homeschool precisely because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to public education and to our democracy. Many promote racial segregation and female subservience. Many question science. Many are determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives,” she writes.

  • Gabriel Fernandez’s Death Was Avoidable, According To The Netflix Docu-Series

    March 9, 2020

    When Gabriel Fernandez was wheeled into a local Palmdale, CA hospital in 2013, first responders said that they had never before seen such extreme injuries on a child. Their unconscious patient had a cracked skull and broken ribs into addition to numerous BB gun pellets lodged into different parts of his body. Gabriel's guardians, Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre, were to blame for the abhorrent physical abuse — but they weren't the only people who put the child in danger. In the Netflix true crime docu-series The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, the social workers that neglected to protect Gabriel from harm are also put on trial. ... "The system is overwhelmingly oriented toward parent rights, toward family preservation," child advocate Elizabeth Bartholet explained in the documentary. "And there is very, very little emphasis on child's based on valuing adult rights."

  • America’s New Sex Bureaucracy

    September 24, 2019

    Four feminist law professors at Harvard Law School have been telling some alarming truths about the tribunals that have been adjudicating collegiate sex for the past five years. Campus Title IX tribunals are “so unfair as to be truly shocking,” Janet Halley, Jeannie Suk Gersen, Elizabeth Bartholet, and Nancy Gertner proclaimed in a jointly authored document titled “Fairness for All Students.” That document followed up on a previous open letter signed by 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty in 2014 arguing that the updated sexual assault policy recently installed at Harvard was “inconsistent with some of the most basic principles we teach” and “would do more harm than good.”

  • One girl’s troubled trail through Mass. foster care system

    September 6, 2019

    A letter by Elizabeth Bartholet:  The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is supposed to be a child welfare agency. But the story told in “Innocents Lost” (Page A1, Aug. 25) demonstrates that DCF regularly functions as a child destruction agency. Governor Baker took an important first step in reforming DCF four years ago, when he eliminated its differential response program. This two-tier system assigned a significant percentage of child maltreatment cases to a voluntary track, with no prior investigation of the seriousness of maltreatment. Under this approach, parents were free to walk away from any protective supervision. Differential response has been shown to put children at risk, and several states have eliminated it for this reason. But Kay Lazar’s Globe story illustrates why this step is not enough. DCF needs a total overhaul. Keeping abuse cases on the traditional track, where DCF can require that parents engage in rehabilitative services, and can remove children at risk to foster care and adoption, will not help if DCF fails to act as needed to protect children.

  • The Revolt of the Feminist Law Profs

    August 9, 2019

    On a crisp and gray September morning, Jeannie Suk Gersen stepped into a lecture hall at Tufts University...Gersen is a feminist legal scholar and a writer of wry, slightly elliptical commentary on legal matters at The New Yorker. She is our foremost guide to the challenges that the #MeToo movement poses to the legal system. She has staked out a position at once conventional and embattled. She shares #MeToo’s goal of ending the impunity surrounding sexual assault. But she remains committed to the principles of due process, presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair hearing. This commitment places her in tension with some of the most impassioned actors in American public life, some of whom have come to regard due process as a fatal obstacle to deterring and punishing sexual misconduct...Gersen, [Janet] Halley, [Elizabeth] Bartholet, and [Nancy] Gertner designed an alternative set of Title IX procedures — applicable only to Harvard Law students — that the Office for Civil Rights eventually certified as meeting the requirements laid out in the Dear Colleague letter, while also satisfying the principles of fair process as Gersen and her colleagues understood them.