In the wake of the tragic murders of two Michigan children whose mother tortured them before stuffing them into the family’s freezer, lawmakers are calling for more stringent regulation of homeschooling in the state.
The proposed legislation from state Rep. Stephanie Chang, a Detroit Democrat, would require homeschooled children to be inspected twice per year by a licensed social worker or law enforcement officer. The bill would also require homeschooling parents to register their children — like dogs or sex offenders — with the superintendent of the school district in which they reside. Michigan is one of eleven states that do not require homeschooling parents to report to state or local authorities.
Chang cited the case of Stoni Ann Blair and Stephen Gage Berry as a reason for planning the legislation. Investigators believe Stephen was 9 when he died in August 2012 and that Stoni was 13 when she died the following May. Their mother, who is accused of torturing and killing them and then stuffing their bodies in the freezer, had said she homeschooled them.
“We all failed Stoni and Stephen because Michigan does not maintain a list of homeschooled children and so we have no way to identify and then protect any child who could be at risk for abuse,” Chang said. “Most homeschool parents have their child’s best interest in mind, and many do a fine job homeschooling, but with Stephen and Stoni, that wasn’t the case.”