LANSING – Several Michigan Democrat law makers are raising the issue of homeschooling in the state and calling for the registration of all homeschooled children along with more regulations and oversight.
The Tribune spoke with State Representative Jaime Greene (R) who is a homeschool advocate and home-schooling mother herself. Greene explained, Attorney General Dana Nessel brought forth the issue of more home school oversight when Nessel reopened two cases about two families who had charges of child abuse dropped back in May 2022, but decided to revisit the cases, because the families homeschooled their children and possibly used it as a means to conceal child abuse.
The two families, Brown and Flore, adopted and fostered around 30 children. AG Nessel stated in a press release on December 4, 2023, “Children who end up in our foster care or adoption systems are often already coming from unbelievably vulnerable situations and deserve our utmost care. The Brown and Flore families preyed upon dozens of children who were removed from previously abusive biological homes and subjected the children to prolonged routine and systemic mental and physical abuse under the guise of discipline. These two families have adopted or fostered at least 30 children toward an end of immense financial gain.”
It’s unclear whether all the children in the Brown and Flore households were homeschooled because according to FOM 723 foster children must be enrolled and attending public schools.
Rep. Greene stated, “All these cases they are citing where the parents were saying that they were homeschooling, CPS [Child Protective Services] was already involved in everyone [case] that I have found. I have not found a single one of abuse in homeschooling where CPS wasn’t called,” indicating the state already had oversight of these families.
Israel Wayne, a leader with Michigan Christian Homeschool Network (MiCHN), explained to the Detroit Free Press, more oversight wouldn’t decrease the reports of child abuse. He said it should lead to more accountability over CPS.
Wayne also stated in the Detroit Free Press, “But there’s often failure on the part of Child Protective Services to adequately prosecute known cases of child abuse,” he said. “And so, we would see many of these cases as being reflective more of a systemic problem within Child Protective Services than a systemic problem within home education.”
Three Democrat legislators are spearheading the change in the laws, State Representative Mike Koleszar (D), who serves as Chair of the House Education committee, Senator Dayna Polehanki (D), who serves as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Senator Stephanie Chang (D).
Senator Chang in 2015 brought forth House Bill 4498, which would require homeschool children meet in person with at least one person who was either a doctor, clergy, or childcare provider each year. She stated in the Detroit News in 2015, “Most children should come into contact with some of these professionals already throughout their daily lives. Taking children to the doctor or visiting a place of worship is a common occurrence for most parents”. House Bill 4498 never passed.
Lapeer County is home to one of the largest homeschooling communities in the state. There are at least 3-4 co-ops that meet around the county all school year long. One large co-op, F.A.I.T.H, has been assisting homeschool families with co-ops and sports for over 22 years.
F.A.I.T.H. currently has 60 families registered in their co-op and another 60 in their sports program. Since their inception in 2001, the program has serviced over 1,000 families in and around Lapeer. This year they will celebrate their 20th commencement ceremony for homeschool graduates.
Director and founder of F.A.I.T.H. Deanna Ervin stated to the Tribune, in response to the legislators’ talk on new homeschool oversight, “Our freedoms as a country and state are being stripped from us. We have the constitutional and fundamental right, as parents, to choose the education that we feel best suits our children. We should not have to register our children and have oversight from the government when statistically homeschooling works. I think the state forgets that our children belong to us, not to them. I’ve encountered thousands of homeschool families with well-rounded, high-functioning graduates that have gone on to be an asset to their communities and have begun raising families of their own.”
Ervin went on to say, “There will always be evil that exists in this world, and it is tragic when any child is abused. It’s unfathomable and unconscionable that anyone would hurt a child. It is sad that someone would use the guise of homeschooling to hide their abuse when statistically the homeschool realm is one of the safest places for children to thrive.”
Since the state currently has oversight of all public schools, Ervin points out, “The focus of the state should be on the public school system, which is under their charge, to figure out ways to help the kids that are falling through the cracks in their own system.”
Rep. Greene stated that public school children “have an 11-17% chance of being sexually abused in school by a teacher or an administrator.”
Rep. Greene also stated, “We’ve been operating this way [in homeschooling] for over 30 years successfully. There is zero reason for them to change this.” Greene is a strong advocate in Lansing for Lapeer County homeschoolers, who is willing to fight for parents’ rights to educate their children without government overreach.
Whether or not actual legislation forcing homeschooling families to register their children with the state will pass, it is a concern for many who feel it is their right to home educate without needed permission or laws from the state.
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