Education

New bill would require fire inspections at home schools

Residents of Perris, California watch as media gather in front of 160 Muir Woods Road, the house where authorities in January 2018 rescued 13 malnourished children held captive by their parents.
Residents of Perris, California watch as media gather in front of 160 Muir Woods Road, the house where authorities in January 2018 rescued 13 malnourished children held captive by their parents.
BILL WECHTER/AFP/Getty Images

The case of the Riverside County couple accused of torturing their 13 children has sparked legislation to increase oversight of home schools

Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) has proposed a bill that would require local fire departments to conduct annual inspections of all registered home schools.

Medina said in a statement that his measure would "provide the oversight needed to protect students and their rights."

The Home School Association of California opposes the bill.

Debbie Schwarzer, an attorney with the organization, says the bill constitutes an invasion of privacy. She also says it doesn't provide any guidance for what home inspections would cover.

"How would they know what to do if they entered my home? I don't have a classroom. Which home in my room are they supposed to look at? Are they allowed to go in my bedroom? What are they poking for? Are they supposed to look at children?"

Schwarzer says the bill could backfire  by discouraging home schools from registering with the state.

In California, families who educate their kids at home must register with the state Department of Education. Each year, they have to submit paperwork stating how many students are enrolled and where the school is located but the forms don't differentiate between private and home schools.  No officials from the Department of Education or any school district are required to check on these home schools.

Under Medina's proposal, the state would give county and city fire agencies lists of registered private schools, including those with five or fewer students.

In January, a malnourished 17-year-old girl escaped her family's Perris home. She told authorities that she and her 12 siblings, ages 2 to 29, about the abuse they suffered. Her parents — David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49 — were arrested. They have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of torture and child endangerment.

David Turpin had registered the family's house in Perris as a home school.