Abuse case prompts California bishops to take deeper look at homeschooling

Alleged child abuse in large homeschooling family has sparked calls for more regulation of homeschooling, California Catholic Conference’s education committee will study issue

Turpin parents with 12 of their 13 children (image from ABC news)

A horrifying case of alleged child abuse in a large homeschooling family in California has sparked calls for more regulation of homeschools, as well as worries such rules could mean more false reports and disruption for innocent families.

“The California Catholic Conference has not dealt with the issue of homeschooling other than to support the parental right to do so,” Steve Pehanich, communications and advocacy director at the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “That would be the controlling principle we’d point to in such a case but, as this case tragically illustrates, even parental rights have some limits.”

Pehanich referred to the case of David Allen Turpin and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, who are accused of starving their 13 children, ages 2 to 29, and holding them captive in Perris, Calif. They rarely allowed their children outside and are accused of shackling them, feeding them one meal a day, and allowing them to shower only once a year.

A teenage daughter escaped the home Jan. 21 and told police that her siblings were being held captive by their parents.

Both parents have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of torture, abuse on a dependent adult, false imprisonment and child abuse, NBC News reports. David Turpin has pled not guilty to another charge of committing a lewd act on a child.

The abuse allegedly started during the family’s 17-year residence in Texas, then intensified after their 2010 move to California.

David filed a 2010 affidavit to establish a private school run out of his home, naming himself as principal of a “Sandcastle Day School,” and updated the paperwork annually. According to the Los Angeles Times, this affidavit is the state of California’s sole legal requirement for homeschooling families.

Pehanich said the California Catholic Conference’s education committee “will be taking a look at the homeschooling issue in more depth” in light of the Turpin case.

California Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, has said he is working on legislation in the wake of the reports about the Turpin family.

“I am extremely concerned about the lack of oversight the State of California currently has in monitoring private and home schools,” he said.

The progressive-leaning Coalition for Responsible Home Education is backing a requirement that homeschooled students be forced into contact with mandatory child abuse reporters. The group recommends requiring homeschooled students to have annual doctors’ visits and annual assessments by a certified teacher. The group says “responsible home-schooling parents” already do those things.

“Our goal is not to make it harder for those parents to home-school, our goal is to make it harder for parents like the Turpins to home-school,” said the group’s executive director Rachel Coleman.

Debbie Schwarzer, an attorney with The HomeSchool Association of California, opposes required visits by mandated reporters, telling NBC News it could single out homeschooling parents for “intrusive inspection.”

“This case has nothing to do with education, and everything to do with parents who are hell-bound [sic] on criminal activity and hiding their children from the world,” Schwarzer said of the Turpin case.

Full story at Catholic News Agency.


  1. Catholic homeschoolers do a better job than Catholic schools or CCD programs of educating children about Catholic faith and inculcating habits of faith by about 10,000%.

    • Can be the case

    • Most families homeschool there children whether they know it or not. Thats not to say they do a very good job, but for those who talk and pray with there kids about the one true faith, I would have to agree with Mike. So many parents or parent just go through the motions by sending them to CCD classes and expect the kids to know the fullness and then soon after, they walk away from the truth.

  2. Since when does “the exception” prove the rule?

    The Turpin parehts are definitely “the exception!”

    Most parents LOVE their children. The Turpins loved themselves.

    • Anonymous 2 says

      Yes, Therese, but like Chicago dictator Rahm Emmanuel averred, the forces opposed to highly successful home-schoolers, which threaten the progressive education monopoly, “never want a crisis to go to waste.”

      We all knew this was coming the day the two Turpin criminals came to light.

  3. Steve Seitz says

    It sounds to me like the call to regulate homeschooling is an “end run” around the constitutional prohibition against illegal searches and seizures. Reason: The torture and neglect of children was by the parents. This issue is an attempt to get into homes to monitor parents.

  4. One bad incident out of tens of thousands of home school families and the knee jerk insane reaction is to invade the privacy of all homeschooling homes or maybe worse lead to shutting this venue of a legal K-12 education down. I can see the crooked California teachers unions behind this, but the California clergy?
    Just another attempt by the liberals and progressives to destroy the family.

    • A colleague applies the term “mass spankings” to such suggested responses: punish all for the sins of one, whom we’re too cowardly or incompetent to face in person. No one denies CPS the right to take action “for cause”, as defined by law, but home schooling cannot per se become a “cause”.
      Yet to be fair to liberals: were this the 1950s I can see certain conservatives suggesting similar restrictions. The “good old days” were not much friendlier to home values that clashed with official school culture than they are now. Much must be attributed, not to philosophies, but to stolid bureaucrats who get ruffled when people don’t want to stay in their assigned boxes.

  5. helen wheels says

    Steve Seitz:
    You is right – in a very large manner.
    Unfortunately !

  6. The old adage, “Hard cases make bad law” applies here (and I don’t mean the other interpretation that bishops are hard cases 🙂 ).

  7. The CCC doesn’t have anything better to do than to check on home schoolers???? Hmmmmm? I find that hard to believe.

  8. Jeanie, you nailed it!!

  9. Roberta Siena says
  10. In the ’70’s my grandmother found out a girl was being forced to work in her uncle’s taco stand and wasn’t going to school. She got the authorities involved and ultimately became her guardian. I wonder what would have happened if the uncle had claimed “home schooling.” She could be learning math by making change, home economics by cooking, auto shop by fixing the delivery truck etc. It seems to me that some kind of oversight of homeschoolers by the local school district is a very reasonable proposition.

    • You cannot “claim” to be home schooled. Evidence needs to be shown. If this story is complete, how these people got anyway with this I do not know. Nevertheless, some of what is being done in some public schools now amounts to abuse of children too. Telling them they can change their sex, if they were not born with an actual deformity, is a lie. Whether we are a man or a woman is in the DNA of every cell of our body. We live in a very sick, sick society where people are expected to say purple is orange, a horse is a hyena, and on and on.

  11. Since the Trupins are Pentecostals the Catholic Bishops just lost another opportunity of keeping their mouth shut.

  12. I have known many homeschoolers, both Catholic and Protestant, and their children all associated with like- minded members of their churches and with others. Many have family oriented parties on feast days of the saints and/or holidays, belong to girls and boys clubs, take music and Latin lessons and belong to sports teams. One young Mormon woman I knew had been homeschooled by her mother, who later became a principal at a public school.

    • A clarification: the mother later became the principal at a public school. The young woman became an instructional assistant at a public school. Many public school teachers and other employees have children who go to private schools or are homeschooled by the other parent. Even many public school teachers do not want their children in government schools.

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