Michigan Homeschooling Under Attack

July 20, 2015 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

Proposed Homeschooling Law Leaves Many Angry

This is a classic case of one apple spoiling the whole bunch. Or at least, spoiling it for the rest of the bunch. And sadly, this is so often the case nowadays. One individual will make a poor choice, and countless others will be forced to suffer the fallout. In this instance the “one” is Mitchell Blair, also known as Detroit’s “freezer mom”, and the people who are dealing with the backlash resulting from her choices, are the entire homeschooling community in Michigan.When Mitchell Blair pulled her children out of public school and told school authorities that she intended to homeschool them instead, she wasn’t doing anything that thousands of other parents haven’t already done before her. But when she began abusing them, and ended up murdering two of the four children and storing their dead bodies in a chest freezer near her front door, she went so far afield from the way that average parents treat their children, it was no longer a case of not playing by the same rules. It was more a case of playing an entirely different game, on a completely different field.

But it happens this way all the time. In the same way that “Foster care panic” takes over every time a child who is “known to the system” is returned to the custody of their parents, and then dies, so people tend to overreact to a tragedy in their efforts to ensure that it never happens again. Completely understandable. But not always rational.

While it makes perfect sense to want to prevent terrible things from happening repeatedly, and it’s an admirable goal indeed, it’s the overreaction that often causes such widespread misery. Misery that wasn’t ever necessary, had the parties involved only thought it through a little longer. Or stopped to think about the fact that the one isolated tragedy was exactly that – a single isolated tragedy. And it doesn’t make sense to punish everyone else for what one person did.

Which is exactly what’s happened here in Michigan with regard to the issue of homeschooling. Just days after the case of Mitchell Blair hit the front page news, House Representative Stephanie Chang began work on legislation that would more tightly regulate all homeschooling parent across the state.

Michael Donnelly, the staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, has gone on record attempting to explain why this is such a bad idea. “Everyone else shouldn’t be over-regulated because of one person’s criminal activity — horrific as it was.” he told legislators at a hearing for House Bill 4498/Senate Bill 284. But his words, it seems, fell on deaf ears.

The bill was voted through, 5 to 1, by the Michigan State Board of Education recently, and if signed into law, will make homeschooling a much more tightly regulated process here in Michigan. Homeschooling parents will be required to register every year with the school district, along with required biannual meetings with an “approved person” who is tasked with checking on the children’s welfare.