Sword and Scale episode 67 discussed a horrifying case of a mother convicted for killing her own children, but many were left to wonder how these kids were able to slip through the cracks. Neighbors and investigators were completely baffled how children could go missing for over two years and no one took notice or called the police.
Homeschooling was cited as a major contributor to the demise of these children. Unlike children who attend schools outside of the home, the safety net of teachers, guidance councilors, coaches and other school faculty simply did not exist and ultimately lead to the disappearance of these children going unnoticed and unreported.
Caregivers for homeschooled children often may have legitimate concerns about the curriculum in public or private schools, but what Blair’s case showed us is that there is another group of children who are also homeschooled. These kids are suffering unspeakable torture and abuse at the hands of their caregivers who use homeschool as a means to cover up the abuse, and these cases are on the rise.
The most recent case to shed light on this issue comes to us from Toledo, Ohio.
In early May of 2016, two cleaning ladies were reporting to duty when they came across a 13-year-old girl outside of the Toledo Port Authority building. The girl had been described as disheveled and appeared as if she hadn’t bathed in some time. After speaking with the girl the two cleaning ladies determined she had been a runaway.
One of the ladies dialed 9-1-1 and spoke with the girl as they waited for an officer to arrive to the scene. The girl told the woman that she had been chained up in a basement for a year. She was forced to urinate in a bucket of ammonia and often only had food scraps to eat. The girl said she had been chained up in the basement of a Toledo home as punishment and only escaped because she had been able to steal the key from her captors.
The girl claimed that her stepfather, Timothy Ciboro, was the one who determined these bizarre punishments and his son Esten helped to enforce them. The girl had been searching for a relative of her mother’s when the two cleaning ladies found her.
The girl’s mother, Stafonda Hawkins, was also picked up on an unrelated warrant. She is also the mother of two other children found in the home at the time of the Ciboros’ arrests. Many wonder how much she knew about the treatment of the 13-year-old runaway and the other children in the home.
Cases like Blair’s and Ciboro’s both serve to show the dark underbelly of homeschooling. Their cases may be bizarre, but they are hardly unique. For this reason organizations have been established to push for safeguards to protect children in homeschooled environments.
Homeschooling should be a contract between parents and children who wish to strive for an alternative to the traditional school environment, but with the lack of regulations that currently exist, abusers are able to use this system as a way to hide the truth of what is going on in their homes. Sometimes, as we saw in Blair’s case, it even allows them to get away with murder.