2 Detroit leaders push for new homeschooling requirements

Lawmakers hope new policies will prevent future tragedies

DETROIT – Two Detroit leaders want new requirements for homeschoolers in the state after the deaths of two children were discovered years after they were pulled out of the public school system.

State Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield held a press conference Friday to announce they would be introducing a House bill next week that would require parents or guardians who homeschool to submit the names of their students to a school district. The legislation would also require the students to meet twice a year with a community representative such as a social worker, law enforcement officer, teacher, physician or clergy member.

Chang and Sheffield said the legislation is not an attack on homeschooling, but an effort to make sure it's not used as a way to cover up abuse.

"As we know, many who homeschool their children to a fine job educating their children. But we can, and must, do better to ensure that every child is accounted for and not leave anyone behind," Chang said.

Chang said Michigan is one of 11 states that don't require any notification from parents or guardians when students are homeschooled. Chang said that makes it difficult to determine how many children in the state are being homeschooled.

Chang and Sheffield referenced the recent murders of 13-year-old Stoni Blair and 8-year-old Stephen Berry. Their bodies were discovered last month in a deep freezer at their Detroit home.

Police said the children died after years of abuse at the hands of their mother, Mitchelle Blair. She is charged with murder, torture and child abuse in their deaths.

Stoni, Stephen and Mitchelle Blair's two other children were pulled from Detroit Public Schools two years ago and were said to be homeschooled.

Because there are no monitoring requirements by the state for homeschooling, no one followed up with the kids after they left the public school system.