Home-school parents fear stigma after killings

LITITZ, PA. — LITITZ, Pa. -- It's not unusual for residents in small towns struck by unexpected violence to wonder how such a thing could happen in their community.

But in this quiet village, tucked among the Amish dairy farms and unabashedly Christian communities of Lancaster County, residents are having an especially tough time comprehending the recent arrest of an 18-year-old suspected of killing his girlfriend's parents after an argument about her curfew.


That the families of both David Ludwig, the suspect, and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Kara Borden, were people of faith, involved in their children's lives and active in a local home-schooling support network makes the Sunday morning shootings all the more incomprehensible, area residents said yesterday.

"I never dreamt I'd see this come out of families like that. It's just devastating," said Vera Zimmerman, 50, of Lititz, who began home-schooling her children a decade ago. She knows the Borden family well and was acquainted with Ludwig's mother.


"What makes this so difficult to understand is that these children were somewhat sheltered from drugs and all that and yet they got into this.

"It will make all of us take a second look," she said. "We're just assuming that we're home-schooling and our kids are OK, and now this. They're not all OK."

Ludwig was taken into custody Monday after a police chase that ended when he crashed his parents' car head-on into a tree in Bellville, Ind., about 600 miles from the red-shuttered home here where the Bordens were killed early Sunday morning.

Kara Borden was in Ludwig's car when it crashed, and Warwick Township police Chief Richard F. Garipoli Jr. said yesterday that Kara will be considered a victim in the case - rather than a willing participant - "until I hear otherwise."

Ludwig did not fight efforts to return him to Pennsylvania. A Lancaster County judge ordered him held without bail at an arraignment hearing yesterday and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Nov. 23.

Police say they believe Ludwig killed Borden's parents, Michael and Cathryn Borden, both 50, after an argument about her curfew when she came home late.

Kara's 13-year-old sister, Katelyn, told investigators that she saw Ludwig shoot her father and then, from a bathroom where she ran to hide, heard a second shot, presumably the one that killed her mother, according to court papers.

Ludwig then ran through the house calling for Kara, the 13-year-old told investigators.


The tragedy is unlike others, some here say, in that the violence allegedly committed by a teenager cannot be attributed to uninvolved parents who didn't know what their children were up to.

Home-schooling parents often spend the majority of their weekdays with their children, leading them through lessons, going over their work and shuttling them among drama clubs, library outings, group gym classes and girls' and boys' clubs.

"The hard thing is that with Columbine, those boys were obviously anti-social kids who had real problems," said Kenton Glick. Her 13-year-old son played soccer with Ludwig and Kara and her family is active in the Lititz Home Educators, a support group of home-schooling families that the Bordens and Ludwigs also participated in.

On her own Web site, Kara discussed the sorts of interests common to many teens - her church, youth group, babysitting, making new friends. In a comment posted on Ludwig's Web site, she wrote, "Yes, your hair is flipping long, and I like it."

Ludwig's pastimes, listed on that site, seem just as typical: rock-climbing, computers, dirt-biking and "pulling stupid pranks."

"These were not anti-social kids," Glick said. "These were not uninvolved families. These were 'normal' kids who both actively professed to be Christians."


Lancaster County has been regarded in recent years as an enclave of home-schoolers. More than 1,000 families are so committed to raising their kids right that they educate the children themselves at home.

A Lancaster newspaper reported in 2001 that the county accounted for one in every 10 children schooled at home and the county has at least 17 support groups and co-ops for home-schooling families.

It took Joy and Kenton Glick months to find even meager resources in Allentown, Pa., for home-schooling their five children. They had no such trouble after moving to Lititz.

"In Lancaster County, home-schooling is so prevalent that we really prayerfully have to decide what home-school activities to involve our children in," said Joy Glick, who compiles the newsletter for the Lititz Home Educators.

"It's almost like a little mini-Bible belt here," Kenton Glick said.

Susan Jones, who has home-schooled her six children since her oldest daughter - now 21 - was a kindergartner. She expects to continue until her youngest son - now 8 - earns his diploma.


She said many families in the area experienced a sense of dread when they heard about the shootings and that the Bordens and Ludwigs were home-schoolers, wary of the spotlight that the killings would shine on a lifestyle sometimes stigmatized and misunderstood.

"We all thought, 'Oh, no, the tabloids are going to go to town on this,'" Jones said, keeping an eye on her 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son as they completed schoolwork at the dining room table. "It seems unfair because when there was a murder on an Indian reservation last year, no one was saying, 'All Native Americans are bad.'"

The reasons Lancaster County parents decide to home-school their children are as varied as the educational programs that they now weave together with home instruction, computer programs, group activities with their support groups or co-ops, college classes and certified instructors hired to teach the more challenging college-preparatory classes that parents would rather not handle themselves.

Many mentioned a desire to control the pace of education so their more advanced children aren't kept waiting in a large class and those who struggle with certain subjects don't get left behind.

Many parents also say they turned to home-schooling to incorporate their Christian faith into their children's lessons. And some said they hoped home-schooling would keep their children from the cliques, bullying, drugs and violence that poison the environment of some public school districts.

"I struggle with the perception that people home-school to keep their children home and isolated in a little box," said Karen Blackbird, 46, of Elizabethtown.


"It takes more than that to stick with the fortitude required of home-schooling. It's not like we keep our kids in a little bubble and expect them to marry other home-schoolers, like it's a little Amish community or something. It's not like that at all."


The Associated Press and Sun staff researcher Elizabeth Lukes contributed to this article.

For the record

Kenton Glick was incorrectly referred to as female in an srticle yesterday about the arrest of a Litita, Pa., teenager on charges of killing his girlfriend' s parents.