Parents with safety concerns weigh education options

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Parents across metro Detroit are deciding whether or not to pull their children out of the classroom over safety concerns.

It stems from recent tragic school shootings in Oxford and Uvalde, Texas.

Just six months into 2022, there have been 27 school shootings, according to Education Week. Safety concerns for parents are mounting with a growing number contemplating alternatives to the classroom.

Michigan had its first case of COVID-19 in March 2020. While the world shut down and scientists tried to figure out how to defeat the virus, Jacqueline Hearns was pregnant with her third child.

“I couldn’t take the risk of them going to school and something happening to mommy and baby,” Hearns said.

So, she pulled her oldest two out of the classroom. Fast forward 2.5 years, they are still being homeschooled, but it hasn’t been easy.

“The children want to go back. They want to see their friends,” she said.

But Hearns is hesitant.

“Now we have to think about the school shootings, it’s been 27 just this year,” she said.

Last month, a gunman killed 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. And last year, four students were killed in Michigan at Oxford High School.

“I was just weeping because I’m like, these were children that were my children’s age,” Hearns said.

Jennifer Russel has been homeschooling her children since 2018. She has become a resource to people contemplating the switch.

“She said, ‘My son is considering not sending his child to school when she starts in the fall because of all the school shootings that are taking place,” Russel said. 

John Edelson is the president and founder of Time4Learning, an online curriculum guide for homeschooled children. Edelson says his company is experiencing significant growth over the past three years, with safety being a top concern for parents.

“Systematically, the trend has been up,” he said.

Courtesy U.S. Census

The number of children being homeschooled doubled during the pandemic. It went from 5.4% to 11% in less than a year, according to the U.S. Census.

“After the tragedy in Texas, we did have a number of families reach out to us with questions about virtual learning for next year and the same thing happened following the Oxford tragedy,” Edelson said.

Emily Pohlonski is the principal at Novi Virtual school. Her students, though 100% virtual, are still considered Novi Community School District students.

The need for flexibility and safety is growing among families, so the district is in the process of partnering with other schools to expand. But not everyone agrees with laptop learning.

“There are no guarantees of safety anywhere to be honest,” Michael Kaufman said.

Kaufman has been an educator for 32 years. He says schools right now are on high alert and doing their best to keep kids safe.

“Keeping a student out of a school because you’re concerned about school safety may cause greater harm than good,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman says when students were forced to go virtual because of COVID-19, many kids fell behind academically and socially.

“Students lost a lot during the COVID years and I would hate to see that happen again,” he said.

Hearns says she will continue to take it one day at a time.

“Every day, it’s like, ‘OK, I will send them back – nope, they are not going,’” Hearns said.