How a Sad Story of 13 Siblings in California Affects Michigan

January 25, 2018 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Drawing of children on chalkboard
“School” means different things to different people. For some it means staying home with your family and learning from your parents…

Every now and again a story crops up that’s so sad, so odd and inexplicable, that it captures the nation’s imagination, and generates a firestorm of media attention. However, with that media attention comes a host of people who will use it to prove their own theories and support their own ideals. And the story of 13 siblings, held captive and abused in California, is no exception, as Michigan anti-homeschoolers are already crawling out of the woodwork.

What happened to those kids in California?

According to countless media outlets, the plight of the 13 siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 29, was brought to light when one of the sisters made a daring break for it. Her escape, and subsequent 911 call, exposed a nightmare home which police described as filthy, where multiple starving children were shackled to furniture. The parents, David and Louise Turpin, have been arrested and charged with a host of crimes, including Child Abuse.

Initially police assumed all the siblings were minors, as they were all small and slender. However as the investigation continued, it was revealed that seven of them ranged in age from 18 to 29. It was severe malnutrition and starvation that had reduced them to the point where they were easily mistakable for children. The sister who escaped, for example, was 17-years-old, but rescuing officers at first assumed she was no older than 10. And the 29-year-old daughter weighed nomore than 82 pounds at the time of her rescue.

Were the Turpin children really homeschooled by their parents?

According to the media, the reason why the Turpin children’s plight was never discovered was because they didn’t go to school. Why? Because they were homeschooled, according to their parents. According to a statement made by the California Department of Education (CDE) in response to this case,”Private schools are required to register with the state to record their students’ exemption from compulsory attendance at public schools. Under current California law, the CDE does not approve, monitor, inspect, or oversee private schools.”

In California, homeschools are considered to be private schools. And under California law, private schools are required to alert the CDE of the fact that their students will not be attending public school,  but nothing else. However, this case is likely to spark change in the sunshine state as it did here in Michigan in the wake of Detroit’s “freezer mom” case.

Michigan saw changes to homeschooling law after the “freezer mom” case

If you remember, back in 2015 Mitchell Blair pulled her children out of public school and told school authorities that she intended to homeschool them instead. However, a later eviction revealed dead bodies in a chest freezer by the front door, and the truth was exposed. Blair had started abusing her children, and finally murdered two of them, storing their bodies in a freezer. Amidst the violent social reaction to this discovery, was a proposed change in state legislation that would require regular checks on homeschooled kids in Michigan.

How does this case in California affect Michigan?

In the end, one tragic case changed the face of homeschooling for Michigan families, which is likely to be the case in California in the wake of this grisly discovery. But what does that have to do with us? How could one terrible abuse case in California affect Michigan, particularly our homeschooling community? Easy. Because one bad apple spoils the bunch. Or in this case, one bad apple spoils for the rest of the bunch!

Horror stories of child abuse in homeschooling families are far and few between! And yet, every time one crops up there is an instant backlash against the homeschooling community. Very similar to “foster care panic“, it’s the kind of public reaction that ends up sacrificing the many to protect the few. So while this story took place in California, the memories of Mitchell Blair and her two dead children are still fresh here in Michigan. So we can probably expect another wave of anti-homeschooling sentiment to fuel Michigan’s media in the foreseeable future.