As an eager nation awaits word from the Supreme Court of the United States in the same-sex marriage case of Obergfell v. Hodges — which could come as early as tomorrow, or as late as June 30 — Michigan is tuned into a different sort of injustice hanging heavy like a cloud over the Great Lakes State.
In March of this year, the bodies of two young children, Stoni Blair and Stephen Berry, were found in a freezer, only when their mother, Michelle Blair, was evicted from her Detroit apartment. Evidence indicates that the children had been dead for several years. Blair, 35, had removed Blair and Berry from school under the pretense that they would be homeschooled.
Michiganders, parents, educators, and lawmakers are appalled, and asking:
How could this have happened, and what can we do to ensure it never happens again?
The answer might be:
Overhaul Michigan’s homeschooling laws.
There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue.
The following text was originally published by The Battle Creek Enquirer.
Michigan is one of only 11 states that does not require homeschooling parents to register with the state or have any contact with officials. But legislation introduced recently could impact the way homeschooling operates in Michigan.
Detroit residents Abbey and Kevin Waterman have homeschooled all eight of their children over the last 24 years and said they believe more oversight would create an unnecessary burden on 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.”
But Lansing resident Cheryl Overly, who has homeschooled her seven children for 12 years, said that while most who choose to homeschool are wonderful parents, more oversight is needed. Overly submits a report to the state annually because two of her sons receive speech therapy services. Overly said the process is simple and non-intrusive.
“A lot of people are intimidated by registering with the state, but it’s not an undue burden, by any means,” she said.
The legislation would require parents or a guardian who chooses to homeschool to:
- Provide their address and names of the children who will be homeschooled to their school district.
- Require that homeschooled children meet twice a year with someone from an approved list of individuals, such as a physician, licensed social worker, school counselor or teacher.
- Require parents to keep records of those meetings and make them available upon request.