The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXVI
No. 5
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September/October
2010

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MICHIGAN

HSLDA Responds to Letter in Kalamazoo Gazette

Below is a reprint of Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Dewitt Black’s response to a letter written by a Michigan pastor to the Kalamazoo Gazette criticizing Bible-centered home education.

In his letter to the Kalamazoo Gazette of May 27, 2010, the Reverend Dennis Smith called for elimination of homeschooling unless it is regulated by the state to the same extent as public schools. Provoked by an article on embryonic stem cell research by a homeschooled student who is a member of the Gazette Young Editorial Staff, Rev. Smith also expressed his opinion that homeschooling “serves as a smokescreen for havens of child abuse.” But the supposed child abuse by homeschooling parents is not the reverend’s main concern. Oddly enough, he asserts that the real culprit is the “ideological indoctrination” (Bible-centered education) by parents that is preventing their children from getting an “actual education.” Unfortunately, Rev. Smith’s opinions don't line up with the facts.

According to the results of a study conducted for the 2007–08 school year by the National Home Education Research Institute in which homeschooled students from all 50 states were administered standardized achievement tests, homeschooled students scored on average 37 percentile points higher than their public school counterparts. And although the extent of regulation of homeschooling varies from state to state, this factor made no statistical difference in the academic achievement of the students tested. Students from states with low regulation such as Texas, Illinois, and Indiana scored the same as students from states with high regulation such as New York and Pennsylvania. The findings of this study were consistent with every other study conducted on homeschooling since its reemergence as an educational option in the 1980s. It is more than obvious that these students are receiving a real education from their parents that will prepare them to be self-sufficient, responsible adults.

Rev. Smith’s outrageous characterization of homeschools as “havens of child abuse” is an insult to the tens of thousands of conscientious and dedicated parents who have sacrificially given of themselves to teach their children at home, often giving up lucrative careers to do so. There is simply no data to even suggest that child abuse is more prevalent in homeschooling families than in families whose children are being educated by other means. To the contrary, based on our interactions with homeschooling families over the past 27 years of HSLDA’s existence, it is most likely that the incidence of child abuse within these families is miniscule compared to the general population.

As recognized by a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children is protected by the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In further recognition of this right, in 1996 Michigan enacted § 380.10 of its Michigan Compiled Laws which states in part, “It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children.” Michigan parents who have chosen to teach their children at home are simply exercising their constitutional and statutory rights to do so. And based on the studies of student academic performance, the present level of state regulation of homeschooling in Michigan is more than sufficient.

— by Dewitt T. Black