On August 14, 2018, the Detroit Free Press (DFP) wrote an article calling for additional regulations for ALL homeschoolers in the state of Michigan. They had previously reported on a Lansing area family who had been reported multiple times to Child Protective Services (CPS).

According to the DFP: “the abuse and neglect is documented in Child Protective Services reports as far back as April 2009. CPS was called twice that year, once for improper supervision and once for physical neglect. CPS was called on the family at least 10 more times before the children were removed from the Condes’ care in 2017.”

The previously reported abuse of the five minor children in this case is horrific and inexcusable. Thankfully, for their own safety, the children were EVENTUALLY removed from the home, and the parents’ rights were terminated. The fact that this kind of abuse happened, over eight years, under the full knowledge of CPS, should raise great cause for alarm about the reliability of that agency.

What Does This Have to Do with Homeschooling?

These children had been in public school during the eight years that CPS was following their case. Being in public school, and having CPS actively aware and involved in the home, did not keep these poor children from being abused by their parents. This case had nothing whatsoever to do with homeschooling.

However, according to the DFP, as the charges against the parents mounted, and it appeared the children would be removed from the home: “The 28-year-old Lansing woman took her five young children out of school and began to home-school them instead.”

Somehow, this turn of events became an excuse for the DFP to write an article advocating that all homeschoolers in Michigan need stricter regulations! One might think that they would have called on stricter regulations for Michigan public schools, or Michigan Child Protective Services, since those were the agencies involved in this case, but no, they turned it on homeschoolers. DFP advocated for a proposed 2015 bill (that INCH was successful in stopping!) that “would have required home-schooled children to meet twice a year with a physician, licensed social worker, school counselor or teacher or a variety of other outside parties who could evaluate the child’s health.”

The Hypocrisy

Public school students are not required to meet twice a year with a physician or social worker (or even a school counselor). If the goal is to keep all children safe, why did this legislation not target the demographic that is most frequently abused (children who attend public school)?

The presumption is, of course, that if the children are in school, they will be safe from harm, because people will protect them. That is simply not the case for many students, including the ones in the story above. The public schools did not protect them, and CPS did not protect them.

HSLDA Responds:

Michigan’s HSLDA representative, Michael P. Donnelly, Esq., responded to the DFP by saying:

“Your article on the CPS case of the Conde family is an example of what is wrong with journalists today.  The story is one sided and presents only one view that strongly implies that HS regulations would have somehow prevented the Conde situation.  This is factually incorrect and the story is quite irresponsible by strongly giving that impression to readers. The assumption that more regulations on HS families would prevent this kind of situation is false and misleading.  Your own facts reveal that CPS was aware of this family BEFORE the HS started.  Just because a family is homeschooling does not prevent an agency with information about abuse and neglect from pursuing an investigation.  This is not a case about home education but rather negligent CPS most likely.”

The reporter from the DFP responded and said:

“Thanks for your note. The story does not say that more homeschool regulations could have prevented the Conde situation. The research volunteer for [an organization that exists to promote homeschooling regulation] speculated that the kids may have been able to get help sooner had they not been pulled out of school, but she did not say anything about preventing the abuse. The researcher was homeschooled herself, and she is a supporter of homeschooling. The fact of the matter is, Sarah Conde took her kids out of school to homeschool them because of CPS complaints she kept getting from teachers at school. With the way the law is written right now, she was allowed to do that. That is in court records, and that is why I wrote the story.”

Mr. Donnelly reponded by saying:

“(T)hank you for responding. My point was that Your story doesn gives the one sided impression I described in my previous email-and you did not include another perspective. The [organization you mentioned] is an organization dedicated to advancing more regulation on homeschooling not homeschooling itself. They have a particular political agenda which is to impose more regulations on homeschoolers. Perhaps you were unaware of this. As a matter of journalistic practice I would hope to see other perspectives included in a story like this. HSLDA is the worlds largest advocacy group on this issue. We do have a particular (different) perspective as well, but there are also other groups [that organization] does not represent the majority of the homeschool movement and was started with the express purpose to advance a particular political agenda. Just because a person was homeschooled does not mean they support homeschooling. [That organization] says they support HSing but their mission is to advance imposing more regulations. They have every right to have their perspective – my point is that journalists ought to include different perspectives rather than advancing one particular narrative. This has been an issue in the past with your newspapers and you’re not alone – unfortunately this is what much of journalism has become these days. Stopping/preventing abuse of all kinds is a laudable goal and There are definitely ways to accomplish this. Imposing more regulations on home education is not one of them and this has been analyzed and vetted by national research efforts on the subject. [That organization’s] premise that more regulation on HSing would prevent abuse or neglect is false. I Thank you for your response and wish you well in your future endeavors. If I may be of assistance in the future please don’t hesitate to contact me.”

MiCHN / INCH Responds:

On behalf of MiCHN / INCH, I responded as well:

“We are the state’s leading advocacy organization for homeschooling in Michigan (since 1983). We share your concern for children who are abused, however, we disagree that additional homeschooling regulations are an effective means of preventing future abuse of children.

“I have written on this topic previously, and would refer you to this article for research that demonstrates that home education, in itself, does not promote a higher risk factor for abuse than traditional schooling: http://homeschoolfreedom.com/2018/01/17/homeschooling-and-abuse/

“It is our hope that, as a journalist, you would be supportive of the thousands of wonderful families who have made great sacrifices to teach their own children in Michigan. Your article, calling for additional government regulations on these families, will not prevent future abuse, but instead will only make things more cumbersome for those who have made this already difficult educational choice.

“Please consider giving the homeschooling community in Michigan an opportunity to show the positive benefits of their choice to take responsibility for the care and education of their own children. What we need in our state is more parents who care about their children and are positively involved in their children’s lives. That is what is represented by the homeschooling community in Michigan. Child abusers need to be prosecuted by the perfectly good child abuse laws that already exist in Michigan. We don’t need additional red tape for law-abiding homeschooling families.

“Thank you for your consideration, and we would love to participate in any future positive coverage you may do of the topic of home education in Michigan.”

We did not receive a response from the DFP.

MiCHN / INCH is committed to continuing our long legacy of defending homeschooling freedoms in Michigan. We appreciate your support as we stand up for parental rights to keep homeschooling free from unnecessary and useless additional regulation in our state. Please consider becoming an annual member of MiCHN / INCH: https://www.inch.org/register/annual-membership/

Please consider becoming a member of HSLDA.

Please read this article to see why putting children in public school does not make them safe.

Israel Wayne serves as the Communications Coordinator for MiCHN / INCH.


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash