Family finds ‘peace of mind’ in homeschooling after physical attacks from bullying, special needs diagnoses

A Cuban family has found homeschooling to be the best educational option for their daughter Susana, who was physically attacked by one of her classmates at a public school in Nebraska.


A Cuban family has found homeschooling to be the best educational option for their daughter Susana, who was physically attacked by one of her classmates at a public school in Nebraska.

“Our whole experience with the public school was horrible,” said Adianez, Susana’s mother. “I trusted them with my child, and she came home injured and traumatized.”

Adianez eventually chose homeschooling, which allowed her to create a customized Student Education Plan after Susana received diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder, episodic mood disorder and anxiety. 

“Homeschooling was as if heaven opened up for us,” Adianez said. “Whenever I meet someone new, I tell them about the wonders of homeschooling.” 

‘She would start panicking’ 

Bullying has become a significant challenge within public schools, according to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. One out of every five students reported being bullied in 2019. 

It can involve a range of harmful actions, from texts and online messages to physical attacks such as being pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on. 

The effects of bullying on students who experience it include increased risk for depression, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and lower academic achievement, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

In some cases, students who are bullied can feel pressure to take their own lives. For example, the mother of a high school student in Missouri sued the district when her son, 16, committed suicide after a group known as “The Mercenaries” targeted him in violent altercations. 

The lawsuit alleges the school district failed to “implement measures to prevent bullying, harassment, assault, battery and misconduct” and didn’t comply with local and state laws to keep students safe. 

For Susana, the bullying began in 2019 after she started 6th grade at her school. 

“They would bully her for her Cuban accent and pressure her to do things she didn’t want to do,” Adianez said, noting the bullying worsened until Susana’s face was disfigured from her injuries. 

The attack left Susana in extreme distress, and she was placed in a different classroom when she entered 7th grade. But when the school closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Susana found herself in the same virtual classroom as the bully. 

Additionally, Susana received threatening text messages after in-person classes resumed in 2022, insinuating the bully would be waiting for her at school. 

“We couldn’t mention the word ‘school’ because she would start panicking,” Adianez said. 

Special-needs students and public school 

Students with special needs are often targets for bullying. 

In Colorado, Amber and Nathan Harford sued a school district after their son was hit 27 times in the head while other students filmed the attack. As a result of the beating, the child suffered ongoing partial paralysis in his face. 

The family alleges the bullying took place over two and a half years in Grand Junction’s Mesa County Valley School District 51. 

“I don’t know how else to put this, except to say that this district almost functions as an enemy of special-needs kids,” said the family’s attorney, Igor Raykin. “I have never seen so much outright hostility against special-needs kids as I have from this district.” 

The bullying comes as the population of special-needs children continues to increase nationwide.  

The number of students in the special education system has doubled in the last four decades, according to a Pew Research Center report. 

“Schools are struggling to find enough special educators to serve this increasing population, especially amid the rise in mental health challenges among students, including those with disabilities,” wrote Amy Mackin in a left-of-center magazine, ChalkBeat. 

For many of these children, homeschooling can provide a safer and more welcoming environment. 

Even though Adianez was interested in homeschooling, the school district’s director of special education told her homeschooling didn’t exist in Nebraska. 

Adianez then turned to the Internet to find alternatives to public school for Susana. After discovering a Spanish site called Vida Homeschool, she found a resource in Karim Morato, the Hispanic outreach coordinator at Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). 

When she reached out to HSLDA, she learned she could indeed homeschool in Nebraska by following the process for school withdrawal in compliance with state laws. 

Adianez submitted all the required documentation to the state’s education department in August 2022. 

“I am not asking for permission,” she said to the school district after receiving objections to her withdrawal. “I’m only notifying you. If there’s a problem, talk to my lawyers.” 

‘Customized education program’ 

Other parents of special-needs children have found ways to harness the flexibility of homeschooling in creating multisensory approaches to learning. 

For example, Mackin chose to homeschool her son through grades 6-12 after an unsuccessful experience with public special education. 

“I created a customized education program for my son, incorporating his ideas and interests,” she wrote. “I connected with educators who operated enrichment centers offering homeschool classes in the morning and after-school programs later in the day, as well as community college staff, local museum educators, retired teachers, homeschool groups, and university professors who offered additional opportunities for alternative learning.” 

Opportunities for Mackin’s family ranged from community gyms to group exercise classes and field trips. 

“We learned about birds of prey at our local Audubon Society, and we discussed farming history during a visit to a cranberry bog,” she wrote. 

Other parents such as Yale professor Christina Cipriano are also calling for educational alternatives after seeing how public schools have failed their children with special needs. 

Cipriano noticed how her daughter responded better to educational methods outside a traditional classroom setting. 

“Our daughter doesn’t always make eye contact when she’s absorbing information,” she wrote. “And sometimes she likes to sit in a chair, but other times she likes to move around. For her, ‘good learning’ might look like manipulating a ‘Pop it!’ toy while chewing on a crunchy snack, or coloring a picture while standing up and leaning on her desk with her hood up.” 

However, school officials dismissed the professor’s concerns during her daughter’s annual Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. 

“My daughter’s school waited for her to fail instead of setting her up to succeed and it has been devastating for her,” she wrote. 

“Our daughter has been working hard to learn to recognize her needs and use these strategies and many more to share her gifts with the world. Her multitasking superpowers, her compassion, her resourcefulness and her creative problem-solving are all traits that will serve her well in life.” 

Meanwhile, homeschool parents can incorporate specific learning strategies seamlessly into their children’s daily schedules. 

Today Susana is thriving at home, with clay modeling and painting among her favorite school activities. 

Adianez also received support from HSLDA consultants in choosing curriculum for the specific needs of Susana and her brother, Enrique. 

“HSLDA is like my family,” she said. “It brought me the peace of mind I needed when it came to my children’s education.”