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Homeschool children would have to submit to in-person meetings twice a year by cops, social workers, doctors or other state-approved individuals under proposed legislation making its way through the Michigan legislature.
House Bill (HB) 4498 also would require homeschool families to register with the local school district.
If it passes, the bill would put this requirement on all homeschool families:
“The child meets in person at least twice a year with a physician, licensed social worker, physician’s assistant, individual employed in a professional capacity in any office of the friend of the court, school counselor or teacher, audiologist, psychologist, law enforcement officer, marriage and family therapist, member of the clergy, or regulated child care provider.”
Tragic Murder Prompts Legislation Against Homeschoolers
State Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) was prompted to write and introduce the legislation by the deaths of 9-year-old Stephen Berry and 13-year-old Soni Blair, The Battle Creek Enquirer reported. The children were found dead in a freezer on March 24 in Detroit, and police believe their mother murdered them. She claimed to be homeschooling them.
“A person who would do something like that to children is not a homeschooling parent,” Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA), told The Enquirer.
Chang believes requiring registration and inspection could prevent a tragedy like the murders. Michigan’s State Board of Education agreed with Chang and voted 5-1 to support HB 4498. It still must pass the state House and Senate.
“When we found out about both Stoni and Stephen, we were just astonished that the mother took them out of school and no one knew where they were,” Chang told Michigan.com. “This really should be about the children and making sure that we are accounting for every single child in the state of Michigan. … If 39 other states are doing this, I really believe Michigan can and should take this step forward.”
Board member Richard Zeile argued that all parents shouldn’t be overregulated because the crime of one person.
Would Law Have Saved Children?
Many homeschool advocates have come out against the legislation.
“The reasoning for seeking regulation against homeschooling based on this case could be likewise appropriated to regulating single parenting or parents who send their children to stay with relatives for any length of time,” Mike Winter of the Information Network for Christian Homes wrote. “These latter regulations are as ridiculous to consider as regulating homeschooling.”
The mother, he said, pulled her children out of school not to homeschool them but “because she murdered them.” The law would not have saved the children, Winter said, because the mother already was lying to everyone around her.
“The way it is right now has made home educating in Michigan a lot less complicated,” home school mom Abbey Waterman told The Enquirer. “We already do all of our own administration, we have our own books, our own home library and we’re responsible for it all. Having yet another administrative responsibility to the state is burdensome and awkward for us. I really appreciate the fact I don’t have to register and validate. … Homeschooling in Michigan is wonderful. Don’t weigh us down with another burden.”
One homeschool mother, Cheryl Overly of Lansing, seemed to agree with Chang and think such oversight is a good idea.
“A lot of people are intimidated by registering with the state, but it’s not an undue burden, by any means,” Overly said.
Michigan is one of 11 states that do not require homeschool kids to be registered with the state.
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