An increasing number of Galveston County parents want to pull their children out of public schools because they fear another mass shooting, parents and homeschooling groups said.

The May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School killed 10 people and wounded at least 13 others, and in the aftershock of the local tragedy, many parents want to homeschool or send their children to private school to keep them safe, they said.

Public school experts don’t think that’s the best solution, but said they understand how sensitive families are after the May 18 shooting.

Everything changed that day for parents already uneasy about the increasing number of mass shootings in recent years across the United States.

“That school shooting was 20 minutes from my front door,” Sky Castleberry said. “When it’s that close, it’s scary.”

Castleberry spent an anxious weekend in disbelief something like the Santa Fe shooting could happen here, but on the following Monday, May 21, a series of incidents and rumors of students taking guns to school multiplied. Two students in the county were arrested, including one who took an unloaded gun to League City Intermediate School.

“I said, that’s it,” said Castleberry, who lives in League City. “I can’t do it. I’m sick to my stomach every day worried today is going to be the day it happens.”

SEEKING SENSE OF SECURITY

Castleberry refuses to send her 12-year-old stepdaughter back this fall to Victory Lakes Intermediate School in League City. Instead, she intends to homeschool her. She thinks Victory Lakes is a good school with good teachers, but Castleberry is too frightened and her stepdaughter is too anxious to return, she said.

Jazzalynn McMurrin has already pulled her two sons out of school after the shooting. Her boys attended Lobit Elementary School in the Dickinson Independent School District.

“Until they can put into place a sense of security for all schools and all children, the public school system enrollment will decline tremendously,” McMurrin said. “The question I asked myself was: Why had none of the Catholic or religious schools been a target? My mind tells me because they kept God and prayer in the school system.”

McMurrin is deciding whether she will choose a private school or whether she’ll homeschool her sons, she said.

Kristen Bottstein, a teacher for 30 years, is opening a small private school in Webster and has already met with many parents curious about an alternative to public school. Bottstein describes her school, Wisdom Prep at 17400 El Camino Real, as an alternative for parents who can’t homeschool, she said. She offers an individualized curriculum built to a student’s level. But families are interested in it for other reasons, she said.

‘THEY ARE SCARED’

“Parents just don’t feel safe,” Bottstein said. “They are scared for them.”

Her daughter is one of those parents and decided to not send Bottstein’s grandson back to school this year. Bottstein also taught at Santa Fe Junior High School for three years, and she was riveted by the news coverage, she said.

“I was worried sick,” she said.

Marissa McGee, who lives in Santa Fe and homeschools her children, started a new group after the Santa Fe shooting to help other parents interested in homeschooling. Questions on social media continued to multiply during the week.

“That’s why a friend of mine and I did this, gathering information for parents who want to start homeschooling for the first time,” McGee said. “A lot of parents are thinking about pulling their kids out of school. It’s the added fear and worry. They just don’t feel their kids are safe.”

She’s already advised parents from Alvin, Friendswood and League City, she said.

‘FLOODED WITH QUESTIONS’

The Gulf Coast Christian Home Scholars, an older established organization in the area representing about 500 families, also is busy answering questions after the May 18 shooting.

“We’ve been flooded with requests for information,” organization President Jennifer Coppock said.

“We’ve been answering every email,” she said.

The Texas Home School Coalition has noticed similar spikes in interest, said Stephen Howsley, public policy analyst for the group.

“We have definitely seen an increase in chatter about homeschooling,” “I am sure this is in part due to the shooting in Santa Fe. It is typically common after unfortunate events like this occur.”

Homeschooling is legal in Texas, but the Texas Education Agency doesn’t track homeschooled students.

The Texas Home School Coalition Association estimates more than 150,000 families are teaching more than 350,000 children at home in the state.

The Texas State Teachers Association does not have a position for or against homeschooling, spokesman Clay Robison said.

“Schools do more than educate,” Robison said. “Schools are a socialization point. Schools serve more than the three Rs.”

‘OPPOSED TO ARMING TEACHERS’

Although Texas has more than 1,100 school districts, it has had few school shootings, he said. Parents who decide to homeschool as a way to protect their children might be overlooking some other facts, such as mass shootings happen at places besides schools, he said.

“Are you going to keep them from going to the movies?” Robison said. “Are you going to keep them from going to church?”

The association is interested in what Gov. Greg Abbott suggests for improving security in schools and would be open to most ideas, he said.

“The one thing we are opposed to is arming teachers,” Robison said.

The association also is calling for better mental health services and better screening, he said.

“We understand the fear,” Robison said. “It’s totally understandable. But kids are probably safer in school than other places.”

Parents wind up turning to homeschooling for different reasons, Coppock said. For some parents, it’s because their child was bullied, while for others, it’s because they have a special-needs child. Some want specialized instruction for their child or need an unusual schedule because of other activities.

“It’s amazing how many different reasons people come to homeschooling,” Coppock said. “Typically, they stay for other reasons. They find they enjoy a closer relationship with their children, or they see real progress in how their children learn. They may come out of fear, but they do not stay out of fear.”

Castleberry, who is a homemaker, will have to turn her entire schedule upside down to homeschool her stepdaughter, but she doesn’t think she has much of a choice, she said.

“This is my child,” Castleberry said. “My job is to say I have her back and to protect her. I don’t need to put her in a position where she will be shot.”

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com

(37) comments

Paul Hyatt

Homeschool is the only way to go. That way they are not taught common core garbage and they can be taught the truth about history and science, add to that fact you can then teach them about God and you have a perfect environment to teach your children. Please do not worry about the social interaction as there are many neighborhoods where you see children that are being homeschooled and most of them have groups that they have joined for the arts where they get to see and interact with other children of their age.... Most of what you read in the media about homeschoolers is a lie as they do not report the truth about them....

Gary Miller

Three hours a day, three days a week, ready for college in ten years. The home school teacher doesn't need to know everything, just more than the home school student. The teacher learns faster than the student, which produces a better educated family. The best is the Monday, Wednesday, Friday Co Ops where three parents team up to use their diverse educations to teach each others children..

Steve Fouga

I doubt most home-schooled children are ready for a STEM-based college curriculum. Some, sure, but not many. So I would absolutely hate for children to be schooled by the typical "man-in-the-street," which is what will happen if home schooling becomes prevalent.

I want our children educated by people trained to educate, or at least by people expert in some field of study.

Carlos Ponce

" Some, sure, but not many." You would be surprised, Steve.
Q4 iFLY Homeschool STEM Open House
https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/local/q4-ifly-homeschool-stem-open-house/
Hands-On STEM Curriculum For Homeschool
https://thehomeschoolscientist.com/stem-curriculum/
STEM Education and Character Education combo – STEM-C™
https://www.homeschool.com/blog/2013/05/stem-education-and-character-education-combo-stem-c
Much, much more available.
If the parents are in a Home School Association they are provided with information on all available programs.

Steve Fouga

Carlos say: "You would be surprised, Steve."

I really would be, Carlos. The problem is that the folks most likely to be good at STEM homeschooling are the ones earning a living in a STEM profession, and thus not readily available to teach. They're working for an energy company, KBR, NASA, the ACOE, or teaching professionally, like yourself.

On top of that, I'll claim that most people are neither suited for nor inclined towards STEM subjects to begin with. Most people forget their algebra as soon as they graduate, or sooner. 20 years later when it's time to teach their high-school-age child?? No way.

I'm not saying it can't ever work, just that it would be a mistake to bank our nation's competitiveness in science, technology, engineering, and math on random parents' ability to homeschool.

Carlos Ponce

On some subjects and levels the parents aren't the ones giving instruction. The trend is in education through computers. A good Home School Association also provides field trips. When was the last time you visited a school? The library and classrooms are now filled with computers not only for research on the internet but also for instruction. Some STAAR testing is done through computer but because of a glitch, some students in some schools had a pause in their testing.
Have all the glitches in home schooling through computers been solved? With new educational computer programs coming out every day get one that has been tried and tested, not a Beta version.

Steve Fouga

I agree that when computer-based teaching is perfected, it will be revolutionary.

It sure helps to have an actual teacher in the room with the student, though, to look the kid in the eye, and see whether they do or don't understand the material, and then immediately provide the tip that clears things up.

The company I worked for switched from mostly classroom to mostly computer based training years ago. It works great for some courses and not so well for others.

Paul Hyatt

Spoken like and by someone who knows not what they are talking about. Home schooled children usually outperform their public school counter parts. Colleges have now come to realize that and welcome home schooled children as they know that they know how to learn and have been taught well at home.... When we finally put our granddaughter into public school as she wanted to go to high school her teachers were amazed at how well she did at the beginning of her freshman year. As for people not being able to teach STEM subjects unless they are college educated, well that is just pure baloney sausage. The teacher just like it happens in public school learns things far quicker than the student does. If you don't believe that the teacher learns as they are teaching then you have never taught before, just ask anyone who has done any teaching and they will agree with what I stated....

Steve Fouga

Paul, who do you mean by "the teacher?" Do you mean the typical parent? The ones who took as few STEM courses as possible in high school? Are you saying the typical parent can master algebra, Euclidean and analytic geometry, trigonometry, and differential calculus? What about physics, chemistry and biology? Really, you think you can pick a random parent and teach them that stuff, 10-20 years after they avoided it in high school.

You were probably one of those brilliant students who breezed through your STEM classes, but most people DO NOT. Those are tough courses, requiring a lot of work and some amount of knack just to understand, much less master well enough to teach.

You are wrong on this one.

Carlos Ponce

Steve, I suggest you talk to parents of home schooled students. You are still under the delusion that the upper level classes are taught by THEM. Usually not.

Carlos Ponce

Steve, what if you had a child who was set on learning Mandarin Chinese and the child's school doesn't offer it. Would you go to the school and demand the school hire a Mandarin Chinese teacher for your child? Would you scout around for a public school that offers Mandarin Chinese and pay out of district tuition and provide transportation to that school? Or would you get a computer based foreign language course such Rosetta Stone for you child? There ARE on-line and downloadable computer programs you can purchase for the higher level courses you mention. A home school association will recommend the best available so you won't waste your money.

Steve Fouga

Okay, Carlos, I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying I believe public schools are a better choice. For most families a MUCH better choice. I'm unlikely to be swayed by the notion that it's POSSIBLE for homeschooling to work. I'm talking about the great mass of American students, meaning average students and average families. I already KNOW that public schooling works. Just secure the campuses and let the teachers teach the kids.

George Croix

Gotta go with Steve on this one.
I know several people doing homeschooling, and figure most of them will succeed in educating their kids, but not all.
One, when in the course of a conversation a few months ago, had no idea that 'Congress' was made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives, telling me instead that 'Congress' was the 'Republicans'.....
I can only hope that's a way-outlier.....
Maybe some type of certification for homeschoolers before the fact?
I dunno..
I do know we don't let our parents certify us to be issued a drivers license, etc.
What my cynical nature sees is a big increase in community colleges attendance for a 13th and 14th grade instruction...
Hope I'm wrong.
No way to blame the parents, though, for wanting to homeschool, when most of what we hear after some horror is politically motivated do-more-of-the-same, or we just can't find the funds for more school security, but can find it for fish and trees and foreign aid and....

Paul Hyatt

While I will agree that there are some who homeschool who should not be doing that, you have to agree that we have MANY people who claim to be teachers that do not have a clue about what they are doing, else why do we have so many graduating who also do not know anything about Congress or the Senate and are totally clueless about our Constitution. Yet those people are called teachers and collect a paycheck for it.......

Micheal Byrd

Home schoolers don't have to be perfect, they only have to do it better than the public school system.

Gary Miller

Mike! You understand the problem. It's easy to improve on the public school system.

George Croix

Well, I certainly would agree with that.....your point is solid, and taken.
I should have been clearer and said I'm not talking about Mensa as a high bar, but definitely would expect better than that woman with zero grasp about what 'Congress' is beyond TV talking points.

Steve Fouga

I recall a George Carlin quote: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

Over dramatized for humor's sake, but almost exactly correct, mathematically. I don't want the below-average ones educating our kids. And I claim it's NOT easy to do better than the public school system.

Carlos Ponce

What if I told you the smarter half is having their children home schooled? And I know many public school teachers whose children are home schooled. They did great in college entrance exams and in college.

Steve Fouga

Carlos asks: "What if I told you the smarter half is having their children home schooled?"

If you showed definitive statistics, then I would believe you. Otherwise I'd say you're about as wrong as you can be.

Carlos Ponce

Steve posted, " I don't want the below-average ones educating our kids." Unless you have the data to support that, I'd say you're as wrong as you can be. Do you know any parents of the home schooled? I do and the majority are very intelligent. Not 100% but the majority.

Steve Fouga

I actually do know some parents who homeschooled, and they're very intelligent, dedicated, and highly educated: master's degrees from Stanford, Rice, A&M. Engineers, mathematicians. Their children are/were excellent students. Carlos, I'm not worried about the well-qualified ones! I'm not worried about public- or private-school teachers homeschooling their children. I'm not worried about the folks with the intelligence, education, and TIME to homeschool their kids. I'm worried about all the rest, which is a large majority.

Why are you arguing with me about this? You know I'm right. If I say I say I support the 2nd amendment will you quit arguing? What if i promise to vote Republican in the next election? I've never known someone to argue so hard when they know they're wrong.

Carlos Ponce

" I've never known someone to argue so hard when they know they're wrong."
So why do you keep arguing? Studies show the educational background of the parents who homeschool has nothing to do with the success of the child in question. READ THE REPORTS.

Carlos Ponce

"Research seems to indicate more often than not that high school students score higher when homeschooled."
"Seventy-one percent of homeschool graduates participate in an ongoing community service activity, compared to 37 percent of U.S. adults of similar ages."
"Eighty-eight percent of the homeschool graduates surveyed are members of an organization (such as a community group, church, or professional organization) compared to 50 percent of U.S. adults."
"Since test scores tend to be higher for homeschoolers than their public school counterparts, homeschooling is a very effective option for many parents. In addition, homeschooled students are accepted at a high rate to universities. Their acceptance is based on both their test scores and their college success rate. This gives them great opportunities to be accepted into universities or colleges who at times seek out homeschooled students, because they usually complete their education at high rates. Seventy-five percent of homeschooled students attend college and their success rate is equal or better than their public school counterparts."
http://www.nmu.edu/education/sites/DrupalEducation/files/UserFiles/Moreau_Kathi_MP.pdf
Here's your data, Steve:
"New data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that the more educated parents are, the more likely they are to homeschool their children."
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/05/23/u-s-department-of-education-higher-educated-parents-more-likely-to-homeschool/
Data for 2012 at:
https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_206.10.asp?current=yes
Of the parents who homeschooled, 16,762 had a high school diploma or less.
15,621 went to vocational, technical school post high school or some college.
11,675 had a bachelor's degree and/or some graduate work.
7,599 had a graduate-professional degree.
2016 parent education data
Less than high school diploma Home schooled 15% All students 11%
High School diploma or GED Home 16%, All 20%
Vocational-Technical or some college Home 25% All 26%
Bachelor's degree Home 30% All 27%
Graduate or professional school Home 15% All 17%
https://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/homeschooling-101/homeschool-demographics/
So with the exception of a slightly higher level of parents with less than a High School Diploma for parents of homeschoolers the statistics are almost the same in 2016 with parents of home schoolers having a slight edge in college degrees. However, educational success as noted in the first study cited is not dependent on the parents' educational background.

Steve Fouga

Not the evidence I asked for. I asked for evidence stating that the smarter half of parents homeschooled their children. This just says that if the parents are smart they are more likely to homeschool. To me that seems obvious, so no need to prove it to me. Maybe it also says the less smart ones have enough sense not to try, which is a good thing.

My contention is that most of the smart ones are working too hard to have time to homeschool. The not-as-smart ones too! Carlos, working for a living and teaching are both hard. Too hard for most folks, I'd say.

Carlos, I'm talking about average, hard-working parents, teaching average kids. Recipe for disaster. Brilliant parents teaching smart kids doesn't count. They would have succeeded no matter what.

Gary Miller

Steve! The home schooling teacher has more free time than the public school students parents. The big advantage is flexibility. Three hours today might be during breakfast or after dinner. A back seat class might be while on the road to vacation spot. Three hours a day might be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday or any other combination. Three days a week could be this week or next week. Home schooling is not ten hours a day, five days a week like public school hours.

Steve Fouga

3 hours per day, 3 days per week. Not enough. Not enough time to learn all the subjects. Sounds like preparing the kid for a life of leisure.

Carlos Ponce

"3 hours per day, 3 days per week. Not enough."
The time varies from student to student. For some, 3 hours is more than enough. Others may require more time.

Carlos Ponce

"Carlos, I'm talking about average, hard-working parents, teaching average kids."
Steve, you are still under the delusion that the parents actually teach the higher level courses. Not true, not true, not true. They just supervise their child to see that proper time is given to books, computers, other instructional aids that are used in instruction. Just ask the parents of the homeschooled you know. Do they actually teach the advanced math, science, foreign languages, etc? Some might, but most rely on resources recommended by the homeschool association.

George Croix

All men are only created equal.
After that there are variables.

Paul Hyatt

From what I have been reading homeschoolers know how to look up information about subjects far better than some who have been arguing that home schools should not be allowed to be taught by parents that are not college educated.... If you do not believe that home schoolers are getting a better education than they could in Public schools then do you own research and find out the truth instead of demanding someone prove their point. Prove their point isn't correct instead....

Steve Fouga

That's the sort of illogical conclusion I'd expect from you, Paul. You were probably educated in public schools, however, so I can't blame it on home schooling.

Carlos Ponce

And Steve Fouga was not educated in public schools?

Steve Fouga

What? Of course I was educated in public schools. I was too poor to go to private schools, and my parents had to work too hard to school me at home. Plus, they weren't qualified to. Just like a huge majority of families today.

Carlos Ponce

Public school isn't for everybody. School vouchers for them.

Steve Fouga

Carlos says: "Public school isn't for everybody."

Agreed.

George Croix

Actually, the public schools would no doubt be greatly improved if some of the attendees were moved to reform schools.....
Or at least some alternative(s) that get's their disruptive, ill-mannered, foul mouthed presence away from the kids who go to school to be educated, not bullied by their peers or and short-changed by teachers having to be wardens, too.

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