April 17, 2013
On April 17, Love Joy Feminism’s Libby Anne — a former homeschool student, former attendee of Patrick Henry College’s summer camp on Constitutional Law taught by Michael Farris, and now-parent of two children; also, one of HA’s blog partners — began a five-part series looking at the relationship between HSLDA and child abuse. Of particular concern to many people who have read this series is that HSLDA has slowly but surely moved from homeschool advocacy to — by their own admission — reform of child welfare laws, including opposing anonymous tips, mandatory reporting, and mainstream definitions of child abuse. The five parts to this series are: (1) HSLDA and Child Abuse: An Introduction; (2) HSLDA’s Fight against Child Abuse Reporting; (3) HSLDA’s Stonewalling of Child Abuse Investigations; (4) HSLDA’s Defense of Child Abuse; and (5) HSLDA and the Deregulation of Homeschooling. Part five of the series was published on April 24.
April 20, 2013
The blogger from the Eighth and Final Square, inspired by Libby Anne’s series on HSLDA and child abuse, writes a post about her own homeschooling experience. It is entitled, “we were taught to fear the people who could help.” The author says she, too, was “instilled with a fear of CPS.” As a survivor of abuse herself, she says, “I wonder what would have happened if HSLDA wasn’t around, and the kids had been allowed to talk to CPS workers alone.”
April 22, 2013
Homeschoolers Anonymous started crossposting Libby Anne’s series on HSLDA in conjunction with a week of personal stories that explored the relationships between homeschooling, HSLDA, and the CPS: fears of the CPS, failures of the CPS, and how the CPS could have actually helped those who suffered abuse in homeschooling.
April 23 – May 2, 2013
After finishing her series on HSLDA and child abuse, Libby Anne continues to focus on issues of homeschooling, abuse, and HSLDA. She creates a legislative alert about one of HSLDA’s legislative alerts, urging people to counteract HSLDA’s efforts to stop SB 32, a bill “designed as a way to monitor and protect the well-being of children who are known to be at risk for child abuse or neglect based on prior incidences.” She argues that it is “simply false to suggest that there is nothing about homeschooling that might be attractive to neglectful or abusive parents.” She cites a plethora of horrific stories to explore the idea that, while “most homeschool parents are dedicated, responsible and loving,” “when abusive parents homeschool, the consequences for their children can be absolutely disastrous.”
May 6, 2013
On May 6, Libby Anne writes a post entitled, “HSLDA: Man Who Kept Children in Cages ‘a Hero.'” In this post, she points out that Scott Somerville, an HSLDA attorney, called Michael Gravelle, a man charged with molesting his biological daughter, putting his adopted kids in cages, and later punching and shaking his own wife, a “hero.”
Later that day, someone posts Libby Anne’s article on HSLDA’s wall:
The very next day after someone posts Libby Anne’s article on Somerville’s hero comment on HSLDA’s Facebook page, HSLDA chooses to respond via a Facebook status:
The full text of their response is as follows:
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.
Libby Anne promptly responded to HSLDA’s response: “I’ve Had Enough: My Reply to HSLDA’s Response”.
Also in response to HSLDA’s response, R.L. Stollar, co-creator of Homeschoolers Anonymous, issued a challenge to HSLDA on their Facebook page: “HSLDA, will your leaders take a public and universal stand against child abuse and launch a public awareness campaign for your members on how to recognize and report child abuse in homeschooling?”
Stollar’s challenge to HSLDA was quickly mirrored by others. Heather Doney, one of HA’s blog partners, wrote, “Demanding an Answer from HSLDA,” where she says, “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.”
May 7 – 11, 2013
Homeschoolers Anonymous officially launches the #HSLDAMustAct campaign on May 8.
Rebecca Gorman, a former homeschooler, creates the official Change.org petition for the #HSLDAMustAct campaign.
A new website, Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, was launched by former homeschoolers to “to raise awareness of the horrific abuse and neglect that can take place when unfit caregivers use homeschooling as a cover for criminal child maltreatment.”
On May 9, HA announces the official petition in the post, “25 Reasons To Sign The #HSLDAMustAct Petition.”
Here is a full list of posts from bloggers covering the whole Libby Anne/HSLDA issue and the #HSLDAMustAct campaign since May 7:
Wide Open Ground: “Dear HSLDA and Homeschool Parents, What About My Friend Who Died?” and “HSLDA: Discourse Problem Between Fundamentalist and Outsiders”
Anthony B. Susan: “The HSLDA and Abuse: More Denial and Deflection”
Becoming Worldly: “S***t HSLDA’s Homeschool Parents Say”
Ramblings of Sheldon: “HSLDA: We Would Rather Stand Behind Abusers Than Their Victims”
The Home Spun Life: “Homeschoolers, Christians, HSLDA: We Must Do Better, Kids Are Being Abused”
No Longer Quivering: “Petition: HSLDA Address the Problem”
ThatMom: “HSLDA accused of turning blind eye to child abuse: you decide”
Kathryn Brighbill: “HSLDA and Child Abuse” and “Of Fundamental Rights, HSLDA, and Homeschooling”
Anonymous Wonderings: “On Homeschooling”
On May 10, the Christian Post took on the issue but framed it only as a Libby Anne vs. HSLDA issue: “Home School Legal Defense Association Accused of Protecting Child Abusers.” The Christian Post did not attempt to contact Libby Anne; they tried to contact HSLDA, but HSLDA did not respond. They also did not mention the petition.
May 12, 2013
As of Sunday, May 12, the #HSLDAMustAct petition has over 300 signatures from around the world. The signees are almost entirely from the homeschooling community itself. Former homeschool students, former and current members of HSLDA, and former and current homeschooling parents have all signed it. Signees are from everywhere from California to Louisiana to Pennsylvania, from the U.S. and Canada to Germany and Spain.
Also as of Sunday, May 12, HSLDA has still not responded to the #HSLDAMustAct campaign.
We will leave you with these thoughts from Lisa from The Home Spun Life:
“I have been a financial supporter of HSLDA for many years now and I am asking that they become more transparent with how they practice law, how they defend homeschooling, AND how they protect children in a homeschool that is abusive.
I know children are abused in a variety of types of homes. From poor to wealthy, from Christian to atheist, from public school to homeschools. Abuse happens. It’s tragic! We can’t only speak up about abuse when it happens in a public school. We have to speak up no matter where it happens. And we have to learn how NOT to respond to abuse allegations in the homeschool community.
Defending our freedom to choose our children’s education should never trump their freedom to live in a healthy and safe environment.
To the HSLDA,
As a supporter of yours, I am asking for you to clarify your mission to defend homeschool freedom. I am asking that you inform us and SHOW US how you are defending this freedom WHILE defending children in an abusive homeschool environment. HOW do you separate the defense to protect homeschool freedom WHILE NOT enabling abusive parents to further their abuse under your “protection”? HOW are YOU holding abusive parents accountable? HOW are YOU cooperating with local authorities to HELP victims?
We must do better. We must speak up.”
I confess I’ve skimmed Libby’s series. ‘Tho I’ve been homeschooling for over a decade I chose not to join HSLDA for several reasons. Now I’m concerned by their unwillingness to clarify their purpose and directly address concerns about child abuse. So I’ll be reading the entire series and writing about this petition at my blog – which won’t go over well with my homeschooling community, I know. But we’ve got to start holding each other accountable!
“Defending our freedom to choose our children’s education should never trump their freedom to live in a healthy and safe environment.” – I love this quote; it perfectly sums up my feelings about homeschooling and child abuse.