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Bozita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-17-09 11:26 AM
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Edited on Thu Dec-17-09 11:28 AM by Bozita
http://www.detnews.com/article/20091217/METRO/912170337...

Last Updated: December 17. 2009 10:12AM
Today's Focus
Lax home-school laws put kids at risk
Michigan law provides little regulation, making physical harm or educational neglect of kids difficult to spot
Ron French / The Detroit News

Centreville -- Calista Springer lay tethered to her bed by a dog collar while her siblings went off to school each morning. For two years, Springer's parents claimed their eldest daughter was home-schooled, an assertion police now say was a ruse to hide child abuse.

That ruse came to a tragic end in February 2008, when fire swept through the Springer home, located across the street from the St. Joseph County Courthouse in downtown Centreville, a small town 35 miles south of Kalamazoo.

The 16-year-old died in the fire, unable to free herself from the strap that bound her to her bed.

"She could have looked out her bedroom window at the courtroom that could have saved her life," said a frustrated St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough. "She's a tragic example of how the system can be exploited."

Michigan has one of the most lenient home school laws in the nation, giving tens of thousands of families the freedom to teach their children in the manner they want without government interference. But timid and sporadic enforcement of the law's minimal requirements has been exploited by some unscrupulous parents hiding abuse or educational neglect.

Because the state is barred from collecting any data on home school students, it's impossible to know how many parents may be abusing the law or how well those students are doing academically. But at least two deaths can be traced to parents pulling their children from public schools to squelch abuse complaints, authorities say. In both cases, parents claimed they were home schooling their children despite having no books or educational materials in their homes.

Others have used home schooling as an excuse to keep children at home to care for younger siblings or ailing parents, without providing any educational materials.

Just what can be done in such cases -- and who can do it -- is so unclear that some officials call a false claim of home schooling a "get-out-of-jail-free card."

"As long as home schooling is as lax as it is," said Charlotte Smith, a state Office of Children's Ombudsman intake officer, "it's an avenue for parents to hide abuse."

In 20 years, Michigan has moved from some of the most restrictive home school laws to among the most lenient. There are no instruction-time requirements, no curriculum standards, no minimum education level for the teachers and no testing.

That freedom has fueled an explosion of Michigan home schools, with an estimated 72,000 children now learning at home.

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