A new bill recently introduced in Michigan would increase regulations already in existence in the state concerning homeschooling.
The legislation comes as a result of the deaths of two students from Detroit. Their mother had claimed they were absent from the public school they had been attending by saying they were being homeschooled. However, the children were later found in a freezer, causing the start of a discussion concerning whether or not more oversight of homeschooled children is needed in the state in order to prevent future tragedies.
The new legislation would require parents who want to homeschool their children to give their school district the names and addresses of all children who will be homeschooled. In addition, homeschooled children must meet with overseers from an approved list twice a year, made up of physicians, licensed social workers, school counselors and teachers. Parents would be required to keep records of each meeting and make them available if requested, writes Katrease Stafford for The Detroit Free Press.
Currently there only 11 states, including Michigan, that do not require parents to register with the state when they choose to homeschool their children.
However, the legislation has received criticism from some homeschooling parents in the state. Abbey and Kevin Waterman of Detroit have homeschooled their eight children for the past 24 years and believes the bill will cause unnecessary burdens for such families.
“The way it is right now has made home educating in Michigan a lot less complicated,” Abbey Waterman said. “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.”
Others believe more oversight is needed and welcome the new legislation. Lansing resident Cheryl Overly said she is required to submit a report each year for her two sons who receive speech therapy services, and calls the process simple and nonintrusive. “A lot of people are intimidated by registering with the state, but it’s not an undue burden, by any means,” she said.
Rachel Coleman, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, agrees, saying that any parent doing what they should with regards to homeschooling their children should not have a problem with the new law, adding that it is only increasing protection for children in Michigan.
“We need the conversation to change,” Coleman said. “We’re not denying that there are plenty of abusers in public schools, but we have a system in place to help them. That’s something homeschoolers don’t have.”