Blaming Homeschoolers for Foster Abuse is a Dodge

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Opinion

By Molly Macek

The state has better tools to protect children and should not be targeting families

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and some lawmakers are targeting homeschoolers in response to recent reports of abuse in a foster care home. They seem to want homeschooling families to register with the government, but it is unclear how such a requirement would prevent child abuse.

“Michigan is one of only 11 states that doesn’t count or register homeschooled children,” State Rep. Matt Koleszar, chair of the House Education Committee, recently posted on X.” Abusive parents are taking advantage of that to avoid being found out,” he added.

Nessel also claimed the homeschooling environment was to blame for the state being unaware of a case of child abuse. She said “monitoring mechanisms” are needed to protect homeschooled children.

At least 30 children were adopted or fostered by two families who allegedly subjected them to mental and physical abuse in the case referenced by Nessel. This was “a failure in our systems to ensure children placed in custody are properly taken care of,” she said in a press release.

It was not, however, a failure on the part of the homeschooling community.

Homeschooling rights secured in two Michigan Supreme Court rulings 30 years ago opened the door for thousands of children to flourish in their home learning environment. Most parents choose to homeschool because the conventional public school system is failing their children. More and more parents in Detroit are pulling their kids from the district’s public schools and choosing better options, including homeschooling. They’re able to do this thanks to organizations like Engaged Detroit and The Homework House, which provide homeschooling families with educational support and resources.

State law gives parents the right “to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children.” Restricting homeschool freedoms would infringe on the rights of parents who want to pursue the best possible educational options for their children. And homeschooling may be the only option for low-income families whose local public schools are unable to meet their children’s learning needs.

A more practical solution to prevent child abuse would be to improve the government systems that have a duty to monitor children’s safety and intervene when cases of abuse are reported to them. “This homeschool registration proposal not only disregards parental rights but also misguidedly focuses on regulating a successful and legitimate educational choice, diverting attention and resources away from addressing systemic problems within government agencies,” Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, told the Detroit Free Press,

The homeschool registry proposal will serve only to restrict the freedoms of parents to choose the best educational option for their kids. Lawmakers interested in ensuring the safety of foster children would do better to improve systems already in place to protect them.

Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited. Permission to reprint any comments below is granted only for those comments written by Mackinac Center policy staff.

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