TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor called Tuesday for tougher state regulation of home schools in response to the 2015 killing of a 7-year-old boy whose remains were found in a family pig sty, and has some bipartisan support among legislators.
The state requires only that operators register their home schools with the state and provide "competent" teachers. The father and stepmother of Adrian Jones claimed to be schooling him in their Kansas City, Kansas home; they have been sentenced to life in prison for his death, and authorities say they abused and starved the boy.
Adrian's maternal grandmother, Judy Conway, is urging lawmakers to strengthen regulation of home schools. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, whose office prosecuted the case, told a House committee that greater oversight is necessary.
The committee had a hearing on a bill that would require people living in a home where a child is abused to report the abuse. Authorities said at least one other adult had temporarily lived in the Joneses' home.
"This is a step in the right direction but, please, don't stop there," Dupree told the committee, adding that children who are home-schooled should have contact with the public school system at least once a year so that their welfare can be better monitored.
Conway also testified, fighting back tears as she spoke her about her grandson's abuse. She said the state has "a lot of great home schools," but because Adrian was supposed to be schooled at home, "no one ever saw my grandson."
"I also believe that in so many ways, that the whole system failed him," she said.
Committee Chairman John Barker, an Abilene Republican, agreed that home-schooled children should be tested at least once a year in a public-school setting. Other lawmakers in both parties said they're interested in a detailed study of the issue.
The Republican-controlled Legislature previously has resisted tighter oversight because some lawmakers do not want to regulate parents or homes. Rep. John Whitmer, a conservative Wichita Republican, said he worries that strong supporters of public schools will use Adrian's case to try to shut down home schools.
"You can't blame all home-schoolers for this incident," he said. "These were not home-schoolers."
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