HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on May 9, 2013 with the title “HSLDA and Child Abuse.”
I’ve made no secret that I don’t exactly have the most positive opinion about the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s brand of religious fundamentalism but I never thought that HSLDA was covering for and protecting child abuse. For all of their scare tactics, and for as much as I think that a legal defense organization is unnecessary in a post-Tim Tebow world, I always assumed that the training-up-the-next-generation-of-culture-warriors aside, it really was just about keeping homeschooling legal. That if they were representing a family, it was because the family was wrongly accused.
I found out recently that I was completely wrong.
HSLDA is pursuing a course of action that is helping to protect child abusers while doing nothing to protect kids.
Blogger Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism, herself a K-12 homeschool graduate, has a series of posts exploring HSLDA and child abuse. It’s a long read but I encourage you to take your time to go read it all, it’s an informative series and it opened my eyes as to just how out there HSLDA really is on this.
Seriously, go read it, I’ll wait until you get back.
Have you read everything?
Good, let’s continue.
On Tuesday, HSLDA posted an indirect response to Libby Anne’s series by way of a message posted on their Facebook page. Their response is basically a bunch of buzzwords and denials that doesn’t address any of the actual allegations. Libby Anne responds here.
I had no idea about what HSLDA was really up to and my memories are filtered through the eyes of a homeschool kid reading the Court Report. I rather suspect that this is news to some of the people reading this as well. It makes me mad because this organization that I thought was there to protect homeschooling has ended up protecting abusers. They’d trot out the “success stories,” but they only ever care about the kids if the kids are making them look good. They don’t actually care about the safety and well-being of homeschooled kids, or if they do, their actions are an awfully funny way of showing it.
And here’s the thing.
The advice that HSLDA gives about not letting people into your home without a warrant, not talking without an attorney present, the whole nine yards, is absolutely the right legal advice that attorneys should be giving their clients. The question though, is why is HSLDA even getting involved in child abuse cases? Unless they think that parental rights and homeschooling include the right to lock your kid in a cage or beat, oh sorry, they call it spanking, your kid until you leave bruises and welts, just because a family homeschools shouldn’t mean that a child abuse investigation is automatically a homeschooling issue. HSLDA shouldn’t even be getting involved until the abuse investigation is resolved. And yet, when a friend sent me the link a few days ago to the story of a parents that beat their children until they broke bones and told me to, “prepare to raeg,” I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find out that HSLDA had represented the parents and claimed to World Net Daily that it was social workers persecuting a good Christian homeschool family.
Defending homeschooling should not mean defending abusers. That should be obvious, but apparently it’s not.
I would argue that if you really want to protect the ability to homeschool, making it clear that the homeschool community has a zero tolerance stance towards child abuse is the best way to do it. If HSLDA’s behavior in abuse cases ends up becoming synonymous in people’s minds with homeschooling, then any parent who decides to homeschool is going to be considered suspect. The best way to protect homeschooling is to stop covering for abuse and to make it clear that it will not be tolerated. Covering it up, denying, and stonewalling protects no one but abusers.
Because of this, I am joining with Homeschoolers Anonymous in saying that #HSLDAMustAct. HSLDA needs to stop covering for abusers, they need to acknowledge the problem, and they need to implement an education program to teach their members how to recognize abuse. Instead of instilling so much fear in families about child protective services that people are afraid to call, they need to educate families that abuse can happen in even “good Christian homeschool families” and that child protective services is there to protect kids in those circumstances.
It is high time for HSLDA to take proactive steps to combat abuse.
If you agree that HSLDA must act, add your name to the petition. HSLDA needs to see that this isn’t just a few disgruntled people but that the homeschool community as a whole believes that it’s time for them to do something about this. If you’re a homeschool parent, we especially need you to add your name to the list of people calling them to act. And while you’re at it, I’d strongly suggest considering cancelling your membership. If their complicity in abuse starts hitting them where it hurts—their pockets—they’re going to be more willing to act.
As an HSLDA member, I do understand your point, but remember that HSLDA is concerned with protecting the privacy of homeschool families as well as their legal right to homeschool because the two are very connected. Informing parents of their rights is important for anyone, but particularly for homeschoolers who are often suspected or reported to DCF or CPS because there is no outside entity checking up on them. I do believe that most people who call in a tip about a homeschool family are probably genuinely concerned about possible abuse or neglect and not just discriminating against them because they don’t like homeschoolers. But that doesn’t mean that homeschool families should just let government officials in and have to explain themselves without any evidence or warrant. It puts us on the defensive and it sets up a relationship between homeschoolers and the government that doesn’t respect the homeschool family’s constitutional rights. I think that is what HSLDA is concerned about and why they take the position that they do. I’m sure you know this, but I think it’s worth writing just for anyone reading this who might not know much about HSLDA or what they do.