Lawmakers Calling for Change to Homeschool Laws Following Alleged Child Abuse Cases

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Two high-profile central Iowa child abuse cases share eerie similarities, and one Iowa lawmaker is taking partial blame for their outcome.

“I realized that we made a terrible mistake in 2013 when we allowed our homeschool families to completely divest themselves from anyone involved with education or any other adults,” says Democratic Senator Matt McCoy.

Natalie Finn and Malayia Knapp were both homeschooled while they were severely abused by their parents. Finn died of cardiac arrest in October of 2016, after prosecutors say she was starved and tortured in her West Des Moines home. Knapp was able to escape years of abuse from her Urbandale home in 2016.

Until 2013, families were required by the state to notify the school district if they chose to homeschool. Now, under Iowa law, the only homeschooled students required to notify the district are those who choose to dual enroll into a public school.

The Department of Education says it has no way to keeping track of homeschoolers who are not dually enrolled.

Senator McCoy is proposing a new law requiring all homeschool students to notify the district and for a teacher or mandatory reporter to make home visits at least once every four months. He calls it a “safety net” to prevent children and teenagers from falling through the cracks.

“I'm not asking for an assessment test. I'm not asking for intrusive reviews of what's being taught. I'm asking for 'do you feel safe at home, are you being cared for are you getting enough to eat,'” he says. “If nothing else it’s a progress report. A well-being report.”

McCoy, who is also calling for more oversight into the Department of Human Services, was criticized on Monday by Governor Branstad.

“He was the same one that killed the bill that would have made these records public, so I guess I find that a little hypocritical,” he says.

However, McCoy disagrees, instead calling the governor out on what he says is poor management of the department.

“He’s confused. We are in the mess we're in today because he's about ready to propose $20 million in more cuts to his DHS, which will directly impact child and family services," says McCoy.

Channel 13 went to the home of Mindy Knapp, Malayia's mother, for comment. No one answered the door.