Editorial: Home-schoolers don't need a crackdown
It's impossible to think of anything more horrific than killing a child — let alone one's own. And the recent news of a Detroit mother who police say murdered two of her four children and kept them in a freezer demands a response. But drawing a connection between what this woman did and home schooling isn't the right approach.
That is exactly what one Detroit lawmaker is doing, however. State Rep. Stephanie Chang is introducing legislation that would create a statewide registry of home-schooled children. And she's doing it directly in response to the murders of Stoni Blair, 13, and her brother Stephen Berry, 9, allegedly at the hands of the their mother Mitchelle Blair.
To prevent people from asking questions about the disappearance of her children, Blair said she was teaching them at home. This woman used home schooling as a cover for the brutal killings. But it's a huge stretch to take this one instance of cruelty and apply it to other innocent parents trying to do the right thing for their children.
Chang's legislative response is misguided and would only punish law-abiding home-schoolers.
At a press conference held with Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, Chang said the registry for home-schooled children was an effort to avoid this kind of tragedy.
"We all failed Stoni and Stephen because Michigan does not maintain a list of home-schooled children, and so we have no way to identify and then protect any child who could be at risk for abuse," Chang said. "Michigan can and must do better to ensure that every child is accounted for and not leave anyone behind. My bill could help prevent future tragedies like that of the Blair family."
Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't do anything to prevent another senseless tragedy. But it would add an unnecessary layer of state oversight for home-schooling families.
Chang's bill would require every home-schooling family to register with local officials. And her legislation would mandate that home-schooled children make in-person contact at least twice a year with a doctor, police officer, social worker or other professional.
That's extremely intrusive.
The legislation has gotten a strong response from other lawmakers, including Senate Education Committee chair Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair.
"This tragic situation is not, and never was, however, a home-schooling problem," Pavlov said in a statement. "The new bill is a transparent attempt by some in Lansing to bully, threaten, and intimidate parents who choose not to send their children to traditional public schools."
Pavlov said this bill would "not see the light of day" in his committee.
Michigan currently has some of the least restrictive home-schooling regulations in the country, and Pavlov says most students in home-school environments do well.
According to Chang, Michigan is one of 11 states that does not require parents to register for home schooling. But if parents want, they can fill out a voluntary registration form. Last school year, 646 children were registered with the state Department of Education.
There's no question the Blair family had a tragic problem. But it had absolutely nothing to do with home schooling. Nor should the response.