How right-wing activists are using school shootings to reignite the 'homeschooling' movement
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Elected Republicans around the country have no plans of any kind to pass laws to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands after the devastating mass shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee this week.

Instead, many of them have another idea, wrote Molly Olmstead for Slate: get kids out of public shools altogether.

"After the mass shooting at a Nashville elementary school this week, Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett was asked how Congress should respond to the violence. And Burchett was remarkably forthright. 'It’s a horrible, horrible situation,' he said. 'And we’re not gonna fix it,'" wrote Olmstead. "But there was another part of the interview that revealed the specific place this belief was coming from. When asked what should be done to protect children like his own daughter, Burchett replied, 'Well, we home-school her.'"

Similar rhetoric was pushed after the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas last year, which actually led to the first major federal gun legislation passed in 30 years. “It is clear now from the long list of school shootings in recent years that families can’t trust government schools, in particular, to bring their children or teachers home safely at the end of the day,” wrote Jordan Boyd for the far-right site The Federalist. “The same institutions that punish students for ‘misgendering’ people and hide curriculum from parents are simply not equipped to safeguard your children from harm.”

On the face of it, this doesn't make a lot of sense, since the vast majority of shooting deaths of children occur in the home, not in school shootings. But this is part of a pattern, wrote Olmstead, of the right-wing religious homeschooling movement latching onto unrelated issues to push their influence.

"The modern 'parental rights' movement was built off the work of conservative Christians who bemoaned changes in public schooling that occurred in the 1960s — namely that the Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer and Bible readings in the classroom were unconstitutional," wrote Olmstead. "Those Christians pushed white evangelicals to pull their children out of schools to give them a more 'Christian' education. The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Christian organization, campaigned during the 1980s to popularize and legalize home-schooling — and it quickly won political victories: home-schooling went from being largely illegal to legal everywhere by the early 1990s."

Burchett, Olmstead noted, makes no effort to hide this as his own motivation. “I think you’ve got to change people’s hearts,” he told reporters in the viral interview. “You know, as a Christian, as we talk about in the church — and I’ve said this many times — I think we really need a revival in this country.”