Detroit Abuse and Murder Prompts Homeschooling Reforms
One of the many tragic details that came to light after the bodies of Mitchell Blair’s two children were found in a freezer by her front door, was the fact that they were homeschooled. Or, to be more specific, they were taken out of public school with the explanation that they would be homeschooled. Whether or not they were taught anything remains to be seen. But the result has been a proposed change in how the state handles homeschooling.
Michigan has rather lenient homeschooling laws when compared to many other states. It is one of only 11 states that allow homeschooling parents to choose to teach their children at home without having to answer to the state in any capacity. But if State Representative Stephanie Chang and Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield have anything to say about it, that is going to change.
Chang and Sheffield are working to introduce a bill that would make it a legal requirement throughout the state for homeschooling parents to provide their school district with the names and addresses of any homeschooled children.
In addition, the law would require that the homeschooling parent meet twice a year with someone on the state’s approved list of persons. A record would have to be kept of the meetings, and this information would need to be made available on request. The list would include a wide variety of individuals in positions of social authority, including doctors, social workers, clergy, teachers and law enforcement officers.
According to Sheffield, the bill would not in any way undermine families who are choosing to homeschool, but would increase accountability across the board. “The proposed policy changes in my opinion would not have a negative impact on those who are truly homeschooling … properly, but it will close loopholes that would prevent an abusive parent or guardian from using it in a way to hide potential abuse or other improper behavior,” she said during a recent news conference.
But many homeschoolers are upset by the proposed bill. One man arrived at the news conference with a sign that said “Defend home schoolers from nosy and fascist politicians!” And many parents agree.
A number of homeschooling parents have spoken out against being monitored by the state, claiming that they should not be punished because of one woman’s decision to abuse her children. Some feel that the bill implies that homeschooling parents are negligent and do not care about their children’s education. Other’s feel that the government has no place in their decisions.
This would not be the first time that a bill like this has been proposed. But in 2013 when the earlier version of this bill stalled in a committee, it didn’t have the deaths of Steven Berry and Stoni Blair hanging over it. It will be interesting to see how this develops. What do you think of this proposed legislation?