Justice says more homeschool oversight may mean less kids ‘falling through the cracks’

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice says there has to be some middle ground when it comes to keeping up with home-school students.

“Twenty-seven thousand homeschool kids in West Virginia and very little oversight,” Justice said during his media briefing Tuesday at the state capitol. “If we don’t watch out, a lot of these kids are going to fall through the cracks and everything. We got to have a little oversight.”

Justice said he’s against taking anybody’s rights away — but the Kyneddi Miller case points toward improvements that have to be made.

Miller is the 14-year-old Boone County girl who died at her home in April. Her body was found in a skeletal state. She was being home-schooled but there were no progress reports submitted by her mother.

State Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, has already said Miller’s death, though tragic, is not the fault of home-schooling.

“The recent tragedy of Kyneddi Miller in Boone County is a heartbreaking and grievous tragedy that should never have occurred. It is imperative to identify the true causes of this failure, rectify them if possible and demand accountability,” Rucker said in an opinion piece issued last week.

She added Miller was out of school for two years before an intention for home-schooling was filed in Boone County. Rucker said informal referrals to CPS involving Miller should have been followed up on, adding that CPS employees are overworked and underfunded.

When Justice was asked about a possible unwillingness by the Republican majority in the legislature to look at the issue, he said that’s not helping the situation.

“Levels of extreme, extreme, I can’t ever see that in anything that that is healthy,” Justice said. Home-school parents have to turn in assessments but if they don’t it appears most counties don’t have the resources to follow-up. Justice said he supports more oversight, but it must be balanced.

“We’ve got to be able to find some level of middle ground in home-schooling, some level of middle ground in foster care, our CPS workers or whatever it may be,” Justice said. “If we do that, we’ll make things better for all in West Virginia.”

Justice said his time in the governor’s office is short and said it may be tough to get anything through the legislature before he leaves.

“I don’t know if the support is there. I really don’t,” he said.