It’s really great, from a psychological and philosophical perspective, that we’re delving into Adam Lanza’s life to try to get a better understanding of what may have contributed to his decision to commit the Newtown school massacre, but I was more than a little shocked that his case, definitely an extreme case, is being used as reasoning for the state to target homeschoolers.
The report singled out a period of homebound education during which Lanza was taken out of school during his eighth-grade year as an especially dangerous health care decision that contributed to his isolation and deterioration.
“The level of isolation disconnect and socialization that we know kids enjoy as part of their education becomes totally lost and that’s a piece of what we see in AL’s life,” said Faith VosWinkel, an assistant child advocate and co-author.
The report concluded that Lanza’s homebound placement was “inappropriate and nontherapeutic” and recommended a review of homebound status education and asked the state to consider an audit of existing homebound practices.
I have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and am mildly autistic. I have also homeschooled my children, with a lot of help from others. My two sons are out of school now (working) while my two daughters are still in high school and are enrolled in a homeschool co-op program through a private school. My oldest daughter is quite a social extrovert, works at a job where she deals with the public, and is involved in a lot of activities (many church-related) that take her outside the home. My youngest daughter suffers from depression, goes to therapy, and is always with someone in her family, usually me. We are thinking about getting her a service dog to help her with the anxiety attacks that she has when she is in certain social situations. I have personally used a service dog for the same thing. When I see officials saying that people like our family should be targeted as potentially violent, that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
The first part of the article at CNN states that Lanza’s condition was “not ignored” in any way but was “misunderstood and mistreated.”
Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was an isolated young man with deteriorating mental health and a fascination for mass violence whose problems were not ignored but misunderstood and mistreated, according to a report released Friday by a Connecticut state agency.
Near the end of the article, underneath the part about homeschooling, it is revealed that Lanza’s mother declined medication that her son likely needed to help him cope with his illness.
The report did single out positive health care intervention: “Of the couple of providers that saw AL, only one — the Yale Child Study Center — seemed to appreciate the gravity of AL’s presentation, his need for extensive mental health and special education supports, and the critical need for medication to ease his obsessive-compulsive symptoms.”
Calls for medication went unheeded by Nancy Lanza, however, whom the authors described as accommodating to her son’s aversion to medication.
The report ultimately determines that Lanza’s mental health issues may have extended past autism to include anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and suicidal disorder.
Health care facilities and their workers are obligated under the law to hold anyone they believe is a danger to themselves or to others. There are mandatory periods that vary by state. Anyone who refuses treatment during this time will be held longer, in order to protect the person being held and/or others from violence. That is good law that is already in place. Had there been any reason on the part of Yale Child Study Center to believe that Lanza was a danger, they should have held him until he got the treatment he needed. It is not rational to blame the mother or homeschooling given that she took him for treatment and given that the facility has the right to hold anyone who may be a danger, including children whose parents do not want them to be held. If the facility did not deem him to be a danger to himself or to others, then why should the mother believe he was a danger? If the facility did believe he was a danger, they should have held him, as is their right and duty under the law, until he got the treatment he needed.
I am reminded of the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier in which the bad guys designed a system to “preemptively eliminate threats.” It is indeed the bad guys who target people they believe “might” do something wrong. It is the bad guys who target parents who homeschool their sick children. If you’re thinking of a sort of Project Insight for homeschoolers, you’re the bad guys. In America, people are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty. That is necessary for freedom. Education of the general public of potential risks is a good thing, but going after parents who homeschool is not okay, particularly when there are already laws in place like mandatory holding of people whom mental health professionals consider to be a threat.