Tyler Board of Education President Bonnie Henthorn has decided to take her two children out of the school system she was elected to represent and homeschool them. Her choice predictably has many members of the community upset. Many feel that it sends the wrong message to the community that elected her as BOE president. Henthorn said repeatedly that her problem is not with Tyler County Schools in particular, but rather with the academic curriculum and the educational policies flowing from Charleston. She laments the loss of local control in education because the state largely determines how teachers do their jobs, and what curriculum students are to be taught.
"The kids are in the best place they can be right now in West Virginia, in Tyler County. This is the best. Statewide, we have pretty much the best system, the best teachers and the best staff. If their kids are going to be in public schools, they should keep them here in Tyler County. I wouldn't recommend them to go to another county or anything like that, but everyone needs to make [his/her] own decision."
Henthorn has stated that she wants her children to receive a more Christian based education. With the closest parochial school more than an hour away, she feels that homeschooling her children is her only option.
Others have stated that religion has been removed from the classroom for some time now, and a good approach for students is to learn in schools, and to worship in church. That way, a child could get a balanced approach to faith and education. Many feel that the BOE president's decision to seek alternative education shows a lack of support for the school system she represents.
Henthorn said she still supports Tyler schools, and that this was a personal choice for her family. She doesn't see the conflict between her words and actions, and she doesn't plan to resign from the BOE nor as president.
Henthorn has the right to educate her children based on her Christian principles, providing she meets state guidelines for quality. And she is right in many respects concerning state and beyond that, federal control of public schools. Obviously, top-down management of schools doesn't work very well.
But enforcing separation between church and state - ensuring children are not indoctrinated with any specific religion while in school - is not just constitutional, it also is how most people want public education handled. Along with Henthorn's right, then, goes that of the vast majority of Tyler Countians, who want the good education provided in local schools - and the freedom to instill values in their children at home, without being contradicted in the classroom.