News: CJ Exclusives

NC Congressman Joins CBS Protest

Members send letter to denounce story on homeschooling

U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-7th District, joined 32 Republican congressmen last week to denounce reporting by “CBS Evening News” that connected homeschooling to child abuse.

The House members signed a letter Oct. 22 to CBS News President Andrew Heyward stating they “were deeply offended by the recent ‘Eye on America’ dealing with homeschooling.”

McIntyre was the sole Democrat, and also the only representative from North Carolina, to sign the letter.

“That was not an issue for me,” McIntyre said, adding that he was pleased to be contacted by his colleagues. “From a personal perspective, I thought it was a very biased report.”

“CBS Evening News” reported Oct. 13-14 that there is a “dark side of homeschooling,” in which parents exploit allegedly lax homeschooling laws to hide the abuse, and even murder, of their children. The first night’s segment focused on the case of Nissa and Kent Warren in Johnston County, whose 14-year-old son Brandon committed suicide after he shot to death his half-sister and brother in 2001.

In their letter to Heyward the congressmen wrote that the report “implied a tragic murder-suicide in rural North Carolina was somehow evident of a ‘dark side’ of homeschooling, which justified further government regulation of home education.” They called the “tenuous connection” between the Warren case and the millions of families who homeschool “absurd.”

“What your correspondent, Vince Gonzales, failed to mention in his segment was the numerous child protection laws already that could have been used to safeguard the children in question,” the letter said. “North Carolina Social Services had repeated contact with the family and had even removed the children from the home for a time.

“Yet, Mr. Gonzales’ solution is to shackle homeschool parents across the country with further laws and regulations that would not have prevented the tragedy in question.”

Reps. Virgil Goode and Frank Wolf of Virginia, Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, and Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina were among the Republicans who signed the letter.

Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, who homeschools his six children, spearheaded the signature-collecting effort. McIntyre, who said he and his wife home-educated their two sons for a few of their elementary school years, previously worked with Akin on legislation that would prevent the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

“He thought I might have an interest in [the letter to CBS],” McIntyre said.

The letter emphasized the growth and academic successes of the homeschooling movement, and took CBS to task for focusing on rare cases of abuse instead of reporting the widespread positives.

“You chose to take a handful of tragic incidents and, from them, cast aspersions on the entire homeschool movement,” the congressmen wrote. “Your report was unfair and indicative of both bias and ignorance.

“We sincerely hope reporting of this kind is the exception and not the rule at CBS.”

A copy of the letter is on the Internet.

Paul Chesser is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.