Friday, April 17, 2015

Hey, Michigan! Burdening homeschoolers with more government bureaucracy doesn't stop child murder.

This morning, two Detroit legislators proposed a bill that would add layers of bureaucracy on the shoulders of Michigan's homeschooling families. Why? Because a crazed criminal killed her two children and stuffed them in the freezer.

What on earth does that have to do with homeschooling? It really doesn't. This is a knee-jerk reaction to a heinous murder because the mother said "homeschooling" as one of her many lies when somebody asked where the children were. (She also said they weren't home or had gone to live with relatives, and no one is proposing a bill to regulate children who legitimately leave their house with a friend or go stay with Grandma.)

Instead of adding another layer of costly government red tape to homeschooling families who are already choosing the more challenging path because they are that committed to their children, how about we solve the actual problem of a severely psychiatrically disturbed mother who murdered her kids? With all the systems already in place that were supposed to protect these children, but failed, why are we using homeschooled kids like mine as the scapegoat? If you are inclined to think we do need to further regulate homeschooling because of what happened to these two children— or for any other reason — consider this:

1. The mother in this case, Mitchell Blair, was investigated twice before by CPS for abusing the same children she eventually killed. How did that government intervention save her children? Should we add additional bureaucracy or fix systems already in place?

2. The children were enrolled in public school until they were murdered, or shortly before. The proposed legislation would ask existing school districts to not only care for enrolled children, but also police homeschoolers. How did public school oversight save these children?

3. Stoni Blair's teacher did call authorities when the girl stopped coming to school, yet no one did even checked into it (and not because of homeschooling either, they failed to act period.) How did this teacher's effort save these children?

4. We all know this mother was not actually homeschooling the [deceased] children, nor did she ever intend to. Had she not been able to use homeschooling as one of her multiple lies, would she have spared the children's lives? Or would she have just come up with a different lie?

5. Sadly, this is the third case in the last several years in Michigan in which a parent lied and said they were homeschooling and, instead, murdered their child. Four dead children is four too many. Are homeschooling parents more likely to murder their children in cold blood? Or are murderous criminals more likely to lie? Would murderers give up and spare their children if they didn't have the ability to use homeschooling as their lie, or would they skip town, go truant or use other lies? How many children enrolled in public school in Michigan in the last several years have been murdered at the hands of their own parents? How did public schooling save those children's lives? (My casual observation of the news tells me it is a significantly higher percentage of children killed while enrolled in public school then murdered while their parents used homeschooling is a lie. It would be interesting/horrifying to research.)

6. Are parents who intend to break existing Michigan homeschool law likely to comply with an additional layer of requirements? Or are the parents who would comply with additional laws people like me whose children are not the at-risk ones you are looking for?

7. One report said the two recently murdered children were receiving Medicaid and food assistance benefits for the last two years while their bodies were in their mother's freezer. How did involvement in these government programs, which often require check-ins and medical visits that clearly didn't happen, save these children? Would additional homeschool regulations requiring doctor check-ins get criminal parents to comply?

8. One article revealed the mother told some of her neighbors that she had killed her children. Not one of them stepped forward or told authorities. What role does this play in saving children's lives?

9. The children's grandfather attended the press conference where this proposed legislation was announced. He stood in support of additional regulation on homeschoolers. My heart aches for him, yet I cannot understand his reasoning here. Where was he when his grandchildren were missing for two years? If you are a parent, would your parents or in-laws stand idly by if you lied to them about your children's whereabouts for two years? If you are a grandparent, would you except a myriad of thinly veiled lies if you didn't see your grandkids for two years? Or are there deeper issues here?

10. In the past few days, I have heard a couple people say they know a homeschooling family where the children are not actually learning or doing anything. That makes me sad. Do you know any children enrolled in public school who fall through the cracks and are graduated without reading proficiency, don't do homework or get assistance from parents at home, or drop out? Is it possible the few bad seed parents who pretend they'll homeschool are the same ones who would be miserably failing their children in a public school environment? If we can't get that minority of children in check when they are under government scrutiny already, do we really expect additional laws on homeschoolers would have the intended outcome?

11. Where would money come from to pay for additional government bureaucracy to regulate homeschoolers? Would we raise taxes? Take from education funds that people say are already not enough?

12. One person recently asked if homeschoolers like me have nothing to hide, why would we object to additional government scrutiny? I want people to know that homeschoolers aren't afraid reporting on their children's progress. We're glad to tell you what our children are learning if you are truly interested. Some of us blog about it, share our educational experiences in Facebook posts, and have our children participate in science fairs and presentation nights to show the world what they are learning. The real question is, would government red tape improve the quality of our homeschooling or would it take precious time away from educating our children if we are required to submit additional reports, take our children to additional visits and wait for approval of our curricula?

13. If you think children need to be monitored because parents can't be trusted, what about the children ages 0–5 who aren't yet in school? They, too, are sometimes abused and murdered by their own parents, which is already illegal and already has a child protection system in place to try to stop it. Do we add a layer of bureaucracy on top of all parents because a tiny minority are criminals? Or is there a better way, like neighbors, family and friends looking out for each other and repairing existing systems that sometimes fail to protect children?

14. What laws are already in place to make murder and child abuse illegal? How is it that laws against murder and abuse didn't save these children, but we're supposed to think laws harsher laws against homeschoolers would save have saved these children?

15. Is it possible we are so deeply troubled as Michiganders by what happened to these children that we are thrashing about, looking for answers, ready to cling onto the slightest bit of hope that we can do something to stop cold-blooded child murders? Do we really want to punish the wrong families because we feel desperate and hurt by the loss of these two children?

Believe me, stopping child abuse is so important to me that it has become a key part of my calling as a Christian and as a mother. I would do just about anything if I thought it would save a child from abuse or murder. My husband and I adopted two children out of the foster care system whose lives were irreparably damaged by their birthparents. We did this with open hearts even though it has rocked our family to the core and added stress that's nearly impossible to adequately describe. When I say I would do anything to save a child, I mean it. But regulating homeschoolers? That's not the answer.

16. As those who know me are well aware, I am pro-homeschooling. I am also pro-public schooling, pro-online schooling and pro-private schooling. I am pro-school choice. I choose homeschooling for two of my children and public schooling for two of my children. I am grateful all these options are available. Do we really want to limit educational options, or do we want to solve the real problem of child abuse and murder?

Instead of throwing a tea cup of water on a forest fire (not to mention the wrong fire), how about we get to the real root of the problem? Instead of adding a whole new layer of bureaucracy over top of homeschooling families whose children score, on average, higher than publicly school children in all measures, how about we work on solutions for mental illness? Child abuse? The child protection system? Detroit in general? Poverty? Societal ills that allow people to turn their heads when children are hurt?


A Tisket A Tasket said...

Sue, you have expressed my feelings exactly. I spent many years working with the public schools and many more years homeschooling my children. I met many homeschooling families in Michigan and other states, as well as communicating with some overseas. There were a family or two I had concerns about, but looking back now, their children are all doing well. I fail to see how having homeschool families visited twice a year is going to work any better than the social services that are already in place. We truly need to quit thinking that every societal ill needs more regulation, and start examining the existing regulatory structure to determine where it failed. And sadly, to admit that some horrible things are going to happen no matter how many laws are in place. We can't enforce the many laws already on the books, which exist to prevent this kind of thing. Let's stop dreaming up new regulations and work the ones that are in place.

Malissa Acosta said...

BRAVO!!! This is everything that I've been thinking/saying! So well written and point perfect! I do so hope that this falls into the hands of a sensible member of government. What happened to those children is the states fault....not homeschooling! #leaveusalone

writerdeman said...

Well said, Sue. I have many similar questions. For one, if homeschooling is the real culprit here, I'd like to know whether the mother of these children was homeschooled. Why are we asking whether the victims were homeschooled? Curious. Also, This is purely an opportunity opposers of homeschooling have been waiting for--an outrageous wrong that will get everyone on board that has the tiniest thread of connection to homeschoolers! It amazes me that there are still people who hate homeschoolers, despite all the proof that supports the practice. (Even from standard education studies, one-on-one tutoring is by far the best avenue for education.) And the socialization issue has long been put to rest. This law should be nixed from the get-go. It is wrong on every level. Be sure to write or call your representatives.

Michelle Rocks said...

Love it! Very well said!! More people need to understand what something like this really means for parents.