By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
I am getting tired of all the parentsplaining.
I am getting tired of those homeschool parents who, when presented with case after case of abuse in homeschool settings, go to Default Response #1 and say, “If you care about abuse so much, why don’t you focus on public schools instead?”
It’s time we all called bull@#$% on this response.
I’m sorry, but parentsplainers and abuse denialists no longer get to control this narrative. These people not only are unmotivated to stop homeschool abuse, they are also unmotivated to stop public school abuse. Their pointing to public schools serves as a red herring. But even more than that, it is disingenuous — because the moment we try to focus on public school abuse, spoiler alert: they’re still standing right in our way. Because these are the same people joining the homeschool lobby in calling for the end of child protective services as we know it. These are the people actively trying to prevent public schools from addressing abuse.
Why do I say this?
Because last Friday, January 24, HSLDA — the mouthpiece of the homeschool lobby — issued a legislative alert about Mississippi House Bill 480. HB 480, proposed by Mississippi Representative Bobby Moak, establishes the Safe2Tell program to allow public school students to “anonymously report threatening behavior or endangering activities.” (You can read a summary of the bill here; you can read the bill’s full text here.)
HSLDA is opposing this bill.
Some background: The Safe2Tell program began as a non-profit organization in Colorado. The program was based on
the Columbine Commission Report’s recommendation that students need a safe and anonymous way to keep lines of communication open. They realized that tragedies could be prevented if young people had a way to tell someone what they knew without fearing retaliation.
Since 2004, Safe2Tell has “prevented 1,000 suicides and 31 school attacks… It has already received reports of 16 planned attacks since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.” The program has since partnered with state governments, beginning with Colorado in 2007. The movement is “spreading across the country with momentum building for a national Safe2Tell hotline.” Mississippi is next to recognize that violence in public schools needs to be addressed and that allowing students a way to report bullying and violence anonymously is crucial. HB 480’s text acknowledges this fact:
In eighty-one percent (81%) of dangerous or violent incidents in schools, someone other than the attacker knew the incident was going to happen but did not report or act on that knowledge… The ability to anonymously report information about unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities before or after they have occurred is critical in reducing, responding to and recovering from these types of events in schools.
This has nothing to do with homeschooling. As Libby Anne has pointed out, “This bill is explicitly not about homeschooling in any way, shape or form. This bill is about protecting public school children from school violence.”
Yet the homeschool lobby is aiming to destroy this effort to protect public school children. In their paranoid mindset, “Broadly applied, this legislation would permit anyone to make such a report against a homeschooling family.” They are using a hypothetical slippery slope — without a single example to point to since Safe2Tell began in 2004 — to roadblock a chance to solve actual violence.
Said another way: The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program inspired by Columbine, that has saved over 1,000 lives, and is critical to your kids’ ability to safely report violence in the public schools.
If you are a non-homeschooler, this is exactly why you should care about the homeschool lobby. This is so much bigger than homeschooling at this point.
The mentality advanced by HSLDA and the homeschool lobby is one of unquestioned dominion of parents over children. It is the mentality expressed by Rosanna Ward (“the government [has] no right to hold me accountable”), Matt Walsh (“we [should] have the unquestioned and absolute right to teach and raise our own children”), and HSLDA’s Scott Woodruff (“a child’s right to an education is held by his parents as custodian until he attains majority”). It is the mentality spoken of with no apologies by Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson at the 2009 Men’s Leadership Summit (“the core problem with Child Protective Services is its existence”), where HSLDA’s Chris Klicka and NHERI’s Brian Ray also spoke.
And now that mentality is coming after non-homeschooled children, too.
This is not a conspiracy theory.
This is an explicit belief system that is spoken of casually and publicly. I witnessed this first-hand last week in Virginia: when a Virginian Republican delegate unabashedly said, “Parents have a right to screw up their kids,” merely a day after Rita Dunaway (Board Member of the Virginia Christian Alliance) said — in the context of joining HSLDA in opposition to HJ 92 — that children do not have any rights.
This should be alarming to every segment of society that has a vested interest in protecting children. I said this last May, and I will keep saying it: “This is no longer about homeschooling and child abuse in homeschooling communities. This is about protecting every child in this country.”
When your only concern is protecting “parental rights,” when you have no qualms sacrificing children’s rights and wellbeing on an altar of parental dominion, then you are going to see all children — not only homeschooled children — at risk. You are going to see HSLDA and the homeschool lobby slowly (but not silently) chipping away at the cornerstones of the child protective system — a system that is a safety net to public school and private school children as well.
If you do not want to see homeschooling regulated more (or even if you do), if you want see better child protection laws, then get off your Freedom High Horse and do the work of actually protecting children. Stop paying dues to an organization that called a child abuser a “hero”. Stop defending a lobby that is actively working to not only dismantle child protection laws, but is actively opposing opportunities to make public school children safer.
The homeschool lobby will not content itself with making homeschooled children less safe. They aim high and public school children are now in their crosshairs, too.