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A Michigan state appeals court ruled that the state could require parents wanting to "homeschool" their children to use state-certified teachers. A couple who homeschooled their children for two years was convicted for violating the state compulsory attendance law requiring parents to send their children to public schools or state-approved private schools. In order to be state-certified, a private "homeschool" must use a state certified teacher and teach prescribed courses. The parents admitted that they were not certified teachers, but they argued that the teacher certification requirement was unconstitutional since it infringed on their right to freely exercise their religion. The court acknowledged that the parents' religious beliefs were affected by the state law, but it concluded that the impact on their religious beliefs was minimal and was clearly outweighed by the state's "compelling interest" in quality education. The court noted that "religious school teachers may have to receive more training in order to become certified, but the regulations do not require anyone to attend courses taught from a perspective contrary to their beliefs. The teachers can fulfill all the state certification requirements while attending either a religious or a nonreligious institution. For these reasons, we find the infringement on free exercise rights is minimal and is outweighed by the state's interest." The court admitted that "state licensure does not guarantee quality teachers. But one cannot ignore the high likelihood that a person who meets the qualifications for certification has absorbed the knowledge a competent teacher should have." The court also rejected the parents' claim that the teacher certification requirement violated "the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children." People v. De Jonge, 449 N.W.2d 899 (Mich. App. 1989).

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  • May 1, 1990