Something really interesting happened last night. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) indirectly responded to the blogger Libby Anne’s series on how HSLDA has helped facilitate child abuse in homeschooling. First off, let me just say that I was surprised that HSLDA said anything, but I guess enough people in the homeschooling world were talking about it that they felt they needed to.
They wrote this post on their Facebook page:
“It has come to our attention that HSLDA has recently been accused of condoning child abuse. HSLDA does not and will not ever condone nor defend child abuse.
HSLDA receives hundreds of calls each year from parents who are under investigation by CPS, often based on false, anonymous, trivial, or malicious reports. The vast majority of these are determined by CPS or a court to be unfounded and are dismissed. Because of this, we do not immediately assume that everyone who is the subject of an investigation is guilty of child abuse or neglect.
As a service to our members, we help homeschool families navigate the legal landscape in the early stages of an investigation before all the facts come to light. This could include helping families know their constitutional rights, helping them understand the legal process, or referring them to a local attorney. If the allegations include homeschooling, we generally will either assist their local attorney to defend homeschooling or represent the family on homeschool matters.
Of the three examples mentioned in a recent article, we did not represent two of the families and in the third we were involved on the question of homeschooling alone after the other issues were resolved by the court.
We believe that every child deserves a healthy upbringing and that parents have the high honor and duty to meet that child’s needs. For 30 years we have been zealously advocating for the right of thousands of parents to responsibly homeschool their children. To the extent that any statements we may have made could be misunderstood to suggest that we condone the abusive actions of some we repudiate them wholeheartedly and unequivocally.”
At first, a bunch of their members seemed outraged that anyone could ever accuse their beloved HSLDA of such things. Then something really cool happened. People who had been homeschooled and either suffered abuse or saw it happening, several of whom I recognize from the Homeschoolers Anonymous project and many I do not, went on the HSLDA Facebook page and told bits of their story or commented on HSLDA’s lack of protections for homeschooled children. I weighed in as well and I’ve got to say it felt great to do so, truly meaningful.
R.L. Stollar, who started Homeschoolers Anonymous, put out a call to HSLDA for them to publicly say that Mr. Gravelle, a homeschooling parent who kept his adopted kids in cages and molested his own biological daughter, is not in fact a “hero,” as HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville had publicly asserted. R.L. also requested that HSLDA lay out what they think is and isn’t child abuse and put out an official statement on what homeschooling parents should do if they see or suspect abuse among homeschoolers.
I think that is an excellent idea, and I for one, am interested to see what the HSLDA’s response will be. They are being asked to question and revise the way they have operated from the start and they are having this demand made by people who were born and raised within the freewheeling and often dystopian homeschooling world that the HSLDA helped create. It must be a jaw-dropping moment for them. Did they ever see this coming? Can they see the hurt that has resulted from their policy advocacy for total deregulation, the protections they have stripped away from at-risk children, or are they more concerned with money or power or saving face? I suppose their answer will tell us, that is if they have an answer, choose to give us an answer.
Most organizations could easily put out a simple statement on the issue with minimal hand-wringing but I imagine it will be hard for the HSLDA. They have gotten so caught up in this “parental rights” thing, this “deregulated homeschooling” thing, and this “(undefined) corporal punishment is good” thing that they are in a bit of a bind and will likely have to contradict or walk back a previously held position somehow. What will they say? Where will they draw the line? What course of action do they find acceptable for cases where homeschooling parents abuse their children?
We deserve to know where the HSLDA stands. We deserve to know that they are thinking about this issue and that they are doing something about it.
I, for one, am requesting an answer. Don’t make us wait too long, HSLDA.