Michigan AG Calls for Greater Restrictions on Homeschooling in the Wake of Abuse Case
Nessel acknowledges major flaws within the adoption subsidy program, citing there is currently no accountability within the program.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling for more restrictions on homeschooling in the wake of an abuse case wherein two couples allegedly adopted and fostered over 30 children for monetary gain, subjecting the children to mental and physical abuse.
According to a press release from the Michigan Department of Attorney General, Joel Brown, Tammy Brown, Jerry Flore, and Tamal Flore are being charged with a collective total of 36 child abuse crimes. All four individuals are facing numerous charges including first-degree child abuse, which carries a potential life sentence, as well as conspiracy to commit child abuse. These charges are a result of documented physical and mental abuse of eight of the children while under their care.
The Browns and the Flores faced abuse charges earlier this year which were referred to the Clinton County Sheriff’s office by Child Protective Services (CPS). The charges against the Flores’ were reduced and the Browns’ charges were dismissed. All prior charges have been dropped following the opening of this new investigation.
It is also alleged that Joel Brown, a former employee of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHS) helped cover up the abuse with his extensive knowledge of child abuse investigations from his time working within the Children’s Services Administration Office of Family Advocate.
“These children were subjected to routine and systemic mental and physical abuse in the home of Jerry and Tamal Flore and Joel and Tammy Brown,” Michigan AG Dana Nessel said while announcing the charges on December 4th.
Nessel went on to say, “These egregious allegations highlight not only a moral and legal failure of those entrusted with the children’s care but a failure in our systems to ensure children placed in custody are properly taken care of.”
She also claimed the reason the abuse was able to go undetected for so long in the Flores home, despite the abuse being more significant, was because the children were homeschooled.
“School is often a safe place for children where such abuse is discovered either by the school, by the teacher, by the staff…while there’s nothing wrong with choosing to homeschool a child, there has to be some sort of monitoring so those children also benefit from those protections,” Nessel stated.
The Attorney General’s office also discovered a major flaw within the adoption subsidy program’s rules and regulations, acknowledging there is currently no accountability within the program. Individuals do not have to prove they are using the money they receive from the program directly for the child they adopt. There are also no follow-ups with the adopted children to see how they are adjusting and if they are being adequately incorporated into the family, nor are there limitations on how many children an individual can adopt.
Michigan State Representative Matt Koleszar posted on 𝕏 (formerly known as Twitter) on December 5th, raising a call to action to close a loophole allowing parents to conceal abuse by claiming they are homeschooling their children.
“Michigan is one of only 11 states that doesn’t count or register homeschooled children, and abusive parents are taking advantage of that to avoid being found out. It’s time to support all Michigan students and change that. Michigan cannot allow this loophole to continue.”
One 𝕏 user responded to Koleszar saying, “What does homeschooling have to do with foster care? Quit reaching and plotting your next round of anti-parent legislation that you'll do at midnight the day before voting with zero hearings. Listen to your voters on both sides of the aisle and focus on the issues they care about. Cuz it ain't ‘registering homeschoolers.’”
Another 𝕏 user writes, “Wait, this seems like a failure on the part of the State already. It was the State that placed these children with those abusers, was it not?”
Still, another responded by stating, “The state never thought to look into two families who adopted THIRTY CHILDREN?!”
Advocates of homeschooling reject the idea of placing more restrictions on the practice. Michigan State Representative Jaime Greene, who serves as the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee, said requiring state registration for students who homeschool is an “egregious violation of parental rights, an invasion of privacy, and an unwarranted government overreach.”
“Parents have the fundamental right to choose the best educational path for their children without intrusive oversight. Mandating registration undermines this autonomy and sets a dangerous precedent of excessive state control, impeding the diversity and individualized approach that homeschooling uniquely provides…Rather than burdening homeschool families with additional administrative hurdles and invasive reporting requirements, efforts should be directed toward supporting and improving the public education system and child protective services. 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.”
Currently, Michigan is a Right to Homeschool state. Parents and/or guardians of the child can provide the education needed for the child and are not required to have a teaching certificate. It is suggested that parents notify the school district and state that they are homeschooling, however, it is not a requirement to do so.
According to the Michigan Department of Education:
“Instruction must include mathematics, reading, English, science, and social studies in all grades; and the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Michigan, and the history and present form of civil government of the United States, the State of Michigan, and the political subdivisions and municipalities of the State of Michigan in grades 10, 11, and 12. Home-schooled students may enroll in nonessential elective classes at the resident public school subject to the district’s enrollment policy.”
Parents can choose their own curriculum, textbooks, and learning materials, and school districts are not expected to provide these materials. Homeschooling students are also not required to take any state exams, although they can opt in should they choose to. Instead, Michigan allows parents to administer testing and homework based on their own curriculum and standards within the home.
Michigan is one of a dozen states that have few restrictions or regulations surrounding homeschooling, which allows parents to adapt a child’s education to their own needs and focus on the areas parents feel are most important. Other states that are considered to be homeschool-friendly include Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas,
As reported by The Washington Post, homeschooling rates rose dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic. While figures can be difficult to determine since several states do not require reporting, Washington D.C. in particular saw a 108% increase in the number of homeschooling students.
In 2019 there were estimated to be 1.5 million homeschooled children in the United States. Currently, it is estimated there are now between 1.9 million and 2.7 million children receiving their education at home.
This rise tracks across all demographics including political views and location, so it is not isolated to a given group of people and also does not correlate with poor-performing schools, as children from well-performing school districts are also being pulled from the public education system.
Why are parents opting out of public school and choosing to bring their child’s education to the comforts of their home? There are several reasons, many of which are dependent on the needs and individual learning goals of families.
Many parents decided to pull their kids out of school during Michigan’s lockdowns because of the prolonged period of Zoom classes and e-learning. During a debate with Tudor Dixon in 2022, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer claimed schools were shut down for only 3 months, but schools closed on March 16, 2020. Schools did start allowing options for in-person learning, online learning, or a hybrid approach later in 2020, but were once again ordered to shut down in-person learning in November of that year. Whitmer did not encourage schools to reopen fully until January of 2021 and advised they open no later than March 1st of 2021.
Because of this online learning approach, many parents noticed their children struggling with academics and decided to change their approach to learning by either switching to private schooling or continuing their education at home. Michigan saw a significant drop in math and reading scores across the state following lockdowns, suggesting that the online learning approach wasn’t beneficial for many students.
Parents also are unhappy with the lack of personal attention their child receives due to underfunded school districts and too many students in a given classroom, which places more strain on everyone involved from teachers and students at school to parents at home.
A more serious threat is also on the rise in the education system. As reported by the Washington Post, “The Education Department found that reports of sexual violence at schools rose from about 9,600 in the 2015-2016 school year to nearly 15,000 in the 2017-2018 school year. That’s an increase of more than 50 percent.”
The Education Department also found a rise in seclusion tactics for students with behavioral issues, “The data showed that special education students, who represent about 13 percent of the entire school population, accounted for 80 percent of reports of seclusion and restraint.” Restraint in this context includes the use of handcuffs or even physically restraining and holding down a child when de-escalation efforts have either failed or have failed to be implemented in the first place.
For now, homeschooling continues to be a valid option for families who want more control over their child’s education while minimizing potential threats outside the home and efforts to protect children from abusive homes that opt-in to homeschooling continue.
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