Michigan Remains in Limbo
Although Michigan has one of the three most restrictive laws for homeschoolers in the nation, the DeJonge family is the only HSLDA family that has recently been brought to trial for homeschooling. Since Michigan law requires that a parent have a current Michigan teaching certificate in order to teach his or her own children, most homeschoolers in the state are operating “illegally” under Michigan law. HSLDA, of course, strongly believes that the Michigan law cannot withstand strict constitutional scrutiny, because it violates both the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
However, the Michigan courts are reluctant to declare the certification law unconstitutional. In fact, in Michigan v. DeJonge (No. 12593-4-AR, Circuit Court, County of Ottawa), the court improperly applied the constitutional test known as the “compelling interest” test, and affirmed the lower court’s convictions of Mr. and Mrs. DeJonge. HSLDA has appealed the decision and is still waiting to hear whether the court of appeals will hear the case. Furthermore, a stay of sentence has been granted to Mr. and Mrs. DeJonge by the court of appeals pending a decision by the court on whether or not to grant the appeal.
In the meantime, additional families are continually being contacted by their intermediate school districts and being instructed to complete the “Home School Membership Report” forms. Although a number of school districts have inquired further of HSLDA member families not possessing teaching certificates, all legal action has been avoided after the school districts have heard from HSLDA attorneys.
Even though the law is the most restrictive in the country, the state department of education seems uncertain as to how to proceed. HSLDA received a copy of a memo from a Michigan intermediate school district informing one of the local school districts that the state department of education had instructed the intermediate school district as follows:
After Form SM 4325H has been filed, notify the local school district that the home school is to be considered a “nonpublic” school and advise them not to take new action under the Compulsory Attendance Law. If legal action is already underway, the local school districts may want to review the effect the procedures have before continuing.
However, at the beginning of May, several HSLDA members who partially completed a “Home School Membership Report” form received threatening letters from their school districts. One superintendent wrote,
I have been instructed by the Michigan Department of Education that, if the above indicated conditions [including the filing of a valid teaching certificate] for a home school have not been met, the students and parents are subject to the requirements of the compulsory school attendance statute and the standby provisions dealing with educational neglect.
It seems apparent that the Michigan Department of Education may begin to pressure homeschoolers who do not use certified teachers.
Furthermore, HSLDA has recently learned that a compromise has been achieved with the court and the Michigan Christian schools. Apparently, Christian school teachers only need a college degree to teach. This, of course, provides evidence that a “less restrictive means” than certification does exist. We will provide more information on this in our next newsletter.