How many times over the course of a year do your children
come in contact with a doctor, nurse, teacher, clergy member, or other
individual who is designated as a mandatory reporter of child abuse? It’s a
fairly regular occurrence, right? If you’re homeschooling, your kids are
probably seeing your pastor every week or so, even if they aren’t seeing anyone
else who’s a mandatory reporter.
Responsible homeschool parents, over the course of teaching
their kids and living their lives, are going to bring their kids into contact
with mandatory reporters on a regular basis. Kids who are in public or private
schools are in contact with mandatory reporters five days a week, if not more.
It takes a concerted effort to keep your children out of
contact with any mandatory reporters.
The kind of concerted effort that
Michelle Blair made when she withdrew her children from school to hide their
abuse from anyone who could have helped them. Stoni Blair and Stephen Berry were found
dead in a freezer in their Detroit home last month. Their mother had told everyone she was homeschooling them and their two surviving siblings.
requires no notification of intent to homeschool, and no contact with anyone
who might notice abuse. Stoni and Stephen’s mother took advantage of that lack
of oversight with tragic consequences.
Whether or not Michelle Blair was a “real” homeschooler doesn’t
much matter. What matters is that Michigan’s homeschool laws are so lax that no
one had any way of knowing whether she was teaching her kids or hiding their
abuse. You can’t say that she’s not a real homeschooler because under Michigan
law, she was.
This is why Michigan
HB 4498 is necessary. So that no more Stonis and Stephens fall through the
The bill requires nothing that good, responsible,
non-abusive homeschool parents don’t already do. Good homeschoolers already
bring their children into contact with mandatory reporters through doctor
visits, sports, church, and countless other activities. If you’re already doing
that, then carry on, you don’t have to change anything. This law isn’t about
you, and it won’t burden you. It’s about protecting the Stonis and Stephens,
the ones who are pulled out of school and hidden away from everyone so that no
one knows whether they are dead or alive.
Laws that are put into place as safeguards do not assume the
worst of people. They are simple acknowledgements that not everyone is perfect.
Homeschoolers are extraordinarily fond of the phrase, “Power corrupts, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely.” As I have argued elsewhere in my article “Checks and Balances: The Conservative Case for Homeschool
Oversight”, we need to remember that this phrase applies not just to
the government but everyone, including homeschool parents. Yes,
many homeschool parents are loving, compassionate, and dedicated parents.
But many are not.
And in the same way that we have speed limits because a few people would
otherwise drive carelessly, we ought to have some protections in place for
homeschooled children. Speed limits do not imply that everyone would drive
carelessly if they did not exist; they imply that the United States has
standards for safety to protect everyone. Homeschooled children deserve safety
In all the pushback I have seen against HB 4498,
homeschooled children and their voices are consistently missing. The fact is,
children do not belong to the government — but they also do not belong to their
parents. They belong to themselves. They have rights.
They deserve to have the best possible education in a safe and nurturing
Too many children have fallen through the cracks in
homeschool laws over the years. HB 4498 fills in some of those cracks so that
more children don’t fall through. Together we can make homeschooling safe for
How to Help
HB 4498 was introduced by Rep. Stephanie Chang on April 21, in order for the bill to move forward the legislature needs to see a groundswell of support. Here are some ways you can show your support for making homeschooling safe for all children.
- Tweet your support using the #MakeHomeschoolSafe hashtag
- Write a letter to editor of Michigan newspapers voicing your support for HB 4498
- If you live in Michigan or were homeschooled there, be sure to mention that
- Detroit Free Press, “Amid deaths, leaders call for
homeschool system changes”
- Libby Anne, “#makehomeschoolsafe and
Michigan’s HB 4498″
- Coalition for Responsible Home
Education, “Statement Supporting Stoni
Blair and Stephen Berry and Michigan’s HB 4498″