How Colorado’s Lax Homeschooling Laws Create Opportunities To Hide Child Abuse

Listen Now
Photo: Jon Phillips Child Abuse Case
A member of the Denver Sheriff's office handcuffs Jon Phillips after he is found guilty of first-degree murder, fatal child abuse and evidence tampering in the May 2007 death of Chandler Grafner on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008. Grafner was homeschooled.

Most parents who choose to homeschool are simply looking to tailor a different kind of educational experience for their children.

But others are using the system to cover up child abuse.

Investigative reporter Karen Auge has been covering home schools in Colorado for years, most recently for The Colorado Sun. Her interest was renewed after the high-profile California case in January 2018, when 13 children who had been homeschooled were freed from an abusive household.

Auge talked to Colorado Matters about the lax homeschool regulations in the Centennial State. The only requirement to withdraw a child from school for an at-home education is written notice to a school district. But it doesn't even have to be the family's own school district—parents can notify any district in the state.

Auge learned that districts rarely, if ever, follow-up on students who were removed from their schools to learn at home. ​Auge found that Denver Public Schools, which has 359 registered at-home schooled students on record, has never initiated a follow-up check-in with a child.