LANSING (AP) – A Michigan lawmaker proposed legislation Friday to create a state registry of homeschooled students following the deaths of two Detroit children who were found in a freezer.
The measure from State Rep. Stephanie Chang, a Detroit Democrat, would require visits with children at least twice per year by someone such as a licensed social worker or law enforcement officer. The bill would also require that parents who want to homeschool their children provide their names and ages, along with the name and address of a parent or guardian, to the superintendent of the school district in which they reside.
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.”
She said the state must ensure that every child is accounted for.
Gov. Rick Snyder did not embrace the concept of a homeschool registry.
“I wouldn’t want to speculate on doing that because, again, people would probably have concerns about having to register,” he told reporters at a Lansing-area event.
He said the deaths of the Detroit children were a “terrible tragedy that merits reviewing the situation and what could have been done to prevent it.”
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