People v. De Jonge, s. 106149

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation58 Ed. Law Rep. 274,179 Mich.App. 225,449 N.W.2d 899
Docket NumberNos. 106149,109010,s. 106149
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mark De JONGE and Chris De Jonge, Defendants-Appellants. PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. John and Sandra BENNETT, Defendant-Appellant. 179 Mich.App. 225, 449 N.W.2d 899, 58 Ed. Law Rep. 274
Decision Date22 September 1989

[179 MICHAPP 227] Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., Wesley J. Nykamp, Pros. Atty., and Mark A. Feyen, Asst. Pros. Atty., in Docket No. 106149, and John D. O'Hair, Pros. Atty., Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of the Crim. Div., Research, Training and Appeals, and Olga Agnello, Asst. Pros. Atty., in Docket No. 109010, for the People.

David A. Kallman, Lansing, and Michael P. Farris, Washington, D.C., and Christopher J. Klicka, of the Home School Legal Defense Ass'n, for defendants DeJonge.

Eisenberg & Mazor, P.C. by Leonard M. Mazor, Birmingham, for defendants Bennett.


[179 MICHAPP 228] MARILYN J. KELLY, Judge.


The defendants in these cases are parents who were found guilty of violating the state compulsory school attendance law. M.C.L. Sec. 380.1561; M.S.A. Sec. 15.41561, M.C.L. Sec. 380.1599; M.S.A. Sec. 15.41599. The Bennetts and the DeJonges kept their children home for school, the mothers serving as teachers. Defendants claimed their home schools made them exempt from the law under Sec. 1561(3)(a), which allows children not in a public school to attend a "state approved nonpublic school." The state showed that defendants were not using certificated teachers as required. On appeal, the Bennetts and the DeJonges raise constitutional challenges to the compulsory school attendance law as it applies to children who are taught at home.

In September, 1984, after becoming aware that the DeJonge children were not attending public school, the assistant superintendent in their district wrote to the DeJonges. He informed them, among other things, that the law required their children be taught by a certificated teacher.

In October, 1984, formal truancy charges were filed, because the DeJonges failed to comply. On April 23, 1985, they were informed that warrants had been issued for their arrests.

The DeJonge children are taught at home through a program administered by

the Church of Christian Liberty and Academy of Arlington Heights, Illinois. The family belongs to the Grand Valley Orthodox Christian Reformed Church. At the jury trial, their pastor, John Byker, testified their church teaches that the responsibility for [179 MICHAPP 229] educating the children is given by God to the parents. Parents are allowed, however, to delegate that responsibility

Michael McHugh, an employee of the Church of Christian Liberty and Academy, testified that his organization helps the parents educate their children. It provides testing, individualized curriculum and monitoring of the home school. The academy adheres to the belief that parents have an inalienable right given by God to teach their own children. It does not require nor does it desire state licensure of its teachers, because certificated teachers must take courses which are based upon secular humanism. Such training conflicts with the religious beliefs of the members of the academy.

Chris DeJonge testified that she had been teaching her children at home for two years. She admitted that she is not certificated. She has a religious conviction that God commands parents to educate their children. She also agreed with her church's precepts as expressed by Pastor Byker, and nowhere stated that her responsibility to educate may not be delegated to others.

Mark DeJonge testified he believes that allowing the state to certificate his children's teachers is tantamount to permitting it to usurp God's authority. Submitting to it constitutes a sin.

The DeJonges were convicted and sentenced to two years probation. They were fined $200 each, required to have their children tested for academic achievement and to arrange for a certificated teacher to instruct them. On appeal the DeJonges contend the certification requirement violates their First Amendment right to free exercise of their religious beliefs and their Fourteenth Amendment fundamental right to educate their children. They also argue violation of their right to due process. Specifically, they submit that they [179 MICHAPP 230] were denied a neutral magistrate, because the local public school superintendent is empowered to determine whether their home school complies with state requirements.

Prior to the 1985-86 school year, the Bennetts' four children were enrolled in public schools. The Bennetts became dissatisfied and put their children into the Clonlara Home Based Education Program. Clonlara provided books, instructional materials and individualized curriculum guides for each child. With the aid of these materials, Sandra Bennett taught her children at home.

In July, 1985, after receiving a request for the records of the children from Clonlara, the local school district referred the matter to its attendance officer. The officer investigated the Bennetts' home school and determined that it did not comply with state requirements. The case was recommended for prosecution.

Dr. Pat Montgomery, founder and chief administrator of Clonlara, explained that the school offers campus-based and home-based education programs. The Bennett children were in the home-based program. Clonlara employed a certificated teacher who would confer with the Bennetts on occasion. The Bennetts had access to the teacher and to Dr. Montgomery by phone and mail. Clonlara also furnished bimonthly on-campus visits. During the visits, the children's work was reviewed, and the Bennetts were given instructions on teaching techniques. Clonlara compiled attendance records and administered achievement tests.

The Bennetts' testimony revealed that John Bennett drew up the lesson plans and Sandra Bennett was the instructor. Neither is a certificated teacher.

Following a bench trial, the Bennetts were convicted of four counts of violation of the compulsory [179 MICHAPP 231] school attendance law. They were fined $50 each and required to present their children for academic testing and to arrange for instruction by a certificated teacher. Fines and costs were suspended provided the Bennetts complied with the court's order within ninety days.

The Bennetts raise five issues on appeal: (1) whether the certification requirement violates their fundamental right to direct the education of their children, (2) whether due process requires that the home school be closed before the parents can be prosecuted under the compulsory school attendance law, (3) whether the school attendance law is unconstitutionally vague as applied to home schools, (4) whether the use of the public school code to regulate their "home school" violates the title-object requirements of the Michigan Constitution, and (5) whether there is insufficient evidence to support their convictions.


Defendants were convicted under the School Code of 1976. The code makes it a misdemeanor to fail to comply with the compulsory school attendance law. M.C.L. Sec. 380.1599; M.S.A. Sec. 15.41599. The attendance law states at M.C.L. Sec. 380.1561; M.S.A. Sec. 15.41561:

(1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3), every parent, guardian, or other person in this state having control and charge of a child from the age of 6 to the child's sixteenth birthday, shall send that child to the public schools during the entire school year. The child's attendance shall be continuous and consecutive for the school year fixed by the school district in which the child is enrolled. In a school district which maintains [179 MICHAPP 232] school during the entire calendar year and in which the school year is divided into quarters, a child shall not be compelled to attend the public school more than 3 quarters in 1 calendar year, but a child shall not be absent for 2 consecutive quarters.

Defendants attempted to fall under the following exemption:

(3) A child shall not be required to attend the public schools in the following cases:

(a) A child who is attending regularly and is being taught in a state approved nonpublic school, which teaches subjects comparable to those taught in the public schools to children of corresponding age and grade, as determined by the course of study for the public schools of the district within which the nonpublic school is located. [Id.]

There is no procedure for state approval of nonpublic schools. However, a "state approved nonpublic school" is defined in the School Code as a nonpublic school which complies with the private, denominational and parochial schools act (Private School Act). M.C.L. Secs. 388.551-558; M.S.A. Secs. 15.1921-1928. That act requires at M.C.L. Sec. 388.553; M.S.A. Sec. 15.1923:

No person shall teach or give instruction in any of the regular or elementary grade studies in any private, denominational or parochial school within this state who does not hold a certificate such as would qualify him or her to teach in like grades of the public schools of the state.

The compulsory school attendance law requires that nonpublic schools use state certificated teachers. They must offer a curriculum comparable to that offered by the local public school and comply with sanitary requirements.

[179 MICHAPP 233] The "home schools" of the DeJonges and the Bennetts do not comply with this law, because they have no state certificated teacher.





This precise issue has been addressed in the past by the Court of Appeals and by the Michigan Supreme Court. We held that state certification of teachers does not...

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5 cases
  • People v. Bennett, Docket No. 91480
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 1 Noviembre 1992
    ...convictions. On a motion for rehearing, the Court of Appeals clarified part of its rationale, but again affirmed the convictions. 179 Mich.App. 225, 449 N.W.2d 899 (1989). Once again the defendants moved for leave to appeal to this Court, and again this Court remanded the case to the Court ......
  • People v. DeJonge, Docket No. 91479
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 25 Mayo 1993
    ...with People v. Bennett. 5 The Court affirmed both trial [442 Mich. 272] court decisions, and reaffirmed their convictions on rehearing. 179 Mich.App. 225, 449 N.W.2d 899 (1989) (DeJonge II In so ruling, the Court recognized that with respect to the DeJonges the "burden Page 131 of the state......
  • People v. Bennett, Docket No. 91480
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 10 Noviembre 1992
    ...convictions. On a motion for rehearing, the Court of Appeals clarified part of its rationale, but again affirmed the convictions. 179 Mich.App. 225, 449 N.W.2d 899 (1989). Once again the defendants moved for leave to appeal to this Court, and again this Court remanded the case to the Court ......
  • People v. DeJonge, Docket Nos. 134296
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 15 Abril 1991
    ...JJ. MARILYN J. KELLY, Judge. On remand from our Supreme Court, we have been asked to reconsider our opinion in People v. DeJonge, 179 Mich.App. 225, 449 N.W.2d 899 (1989). People v. DeJonge, 436 Mich. 875, 461 N.W.2d 365 (1990). We have undertaken the reconsideration in light of recent deci......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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