• 9 Investigates: Support among lawmakers to tighten homeschool laws

    By: Kathryn Burcham


    ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - It's been just over three months since Rowan County teenager Erica Parsons was reported missing.

    State records show the teen was being homeschooled by her adoptive mother when she disappeared nearly two years ago.

    There is new support among state legislators to tighten homeschooling laws.

    The face that has haunted investigators, the mystery is what happened to Erica Parsons?

    "Everyone that has heard about it has had their heart sink a little bit," said Democratic State Sen. Gene McLaurin.

    The ranch house where Erica was last seen sits at the north end of state -- McLaurin's district.

    He's followed the hunt for answers in her case, but has new questions about why it took nearly two years for anyone to report her missing.

    "There has not been any real accountability for what type of education she has received," McLaurin said.

    Erica's biological mother has claimed if Erica had been enrolled in public school, someone would have noticed her disappearance.

    Last month, at a vigil for Erica, Carolyn Parsons called for a new law, in her daughter's name, that would tighten homeschooling restrictions in North Carolina

    "That's why it's so hard to track her until this is done," she said at the time..

    Channel 9 obtained records from the state department of nonpublic education, that show Casey Parsons, Erica's adoptive mother, filed a notice of intent to found the Parsons' Christian School in 2005 as a religious school for her children.

    Per state laws, all Casey Parsons was required to do was submit attendance and immunization records and administer a standardized test once a year. There is no standard curriculum and state education officials said they believe that is sufficient oversight

    "I would say we are a moderate state when it comes to monitoring, certainly there are some out there that have no connection with them at all," said David Mills, director with the N.C. Department of Nonpublic Education.

    Mills said his department can also make an unannounced inspection at any of the state's estimated 52,000 homeschools at any time.

    Mills admits those visits are rare and information obtained from state records shows the state never checked on Casey or Erica Parsons, and Mills admits there simply aren't enough resources to do it.

    "Anyone can fabricate documents," said Kevin McClain with North Carolinians for Home Education.

    McClain said when kids slip through the cracks, it's not because of lax laws.

    He said the majority of families who belong to his organization, North Carolinians for Home Education, are teaching bright minds with bright futures

    "Who knows if going to school every day would have helped Erica," McClain said.

    That is a question McLaurin and the education oversight committee are investigating.

    Inside the state capitol, legislative aides are working on a report about other state's homeschooling and the Department of Nonpublic Education's policies and procedures.

    It's all in hopes that lessons will be learned from the girl who remains a mystery.

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