By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Nearly a week after allegations about a widespread cover-up of physical and sexual child abuse in the Christian homeschooling community were disclosed, the Home School Legal Defense Association has issued a statement on their involvement. The child abuse is alleged to have involved the children and a relative of Paul and Gena Suarez, owners of the popular homeschool magazine The Old Schoolhouse. The mother of one of the alleged victims, Jenefer Igarashi, had repeatedly contacted HSLDA president Michael Smith to ask for his advice and assistance. Smith never responded to Igarashi. Furthermore, according to an email written by Heidi St. John (co-founder of Firmly Planted Co-ops and speaker for the Great Homeschool Conventions), Smith told St. John that, “HSLDA will not be getting involved in it.”
Since the story about the alleged cover-up went public on October 8, numerous individuals have posted on HSLDA’s Facebook page asking for comment. Those comments were met with silence until today.
Today, HSLDA finally responded, copying and pasting a form response to each comment. You can view their response here. An image and the text of the response is below:
Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. HSLDA does not condone covering up sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is a crime and should always be reported to the police.
In addition, HSLDA does not get involved in conflicts between families or individuals. Professionals trained in mediation and arbitration are better suited than us to resolve civil disputes. Our mission is to protect the homeschooling rights of our member families, not to be the police force of the homeschooling movement.
It is worth repeating that The Old Schoolhouse remains an HSLDA-suggested resource promoted to HSLDA members at a special discounted rate. Furthermore, HSLDA is currently sponsoring The Old Schoolhouse. It is also worth mentioning something Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
Other individuals and organizations accused to have known about or played a hand in the alleged cover-up — including Heidi St. John, Brennan Dean from the Great Homeschool Conventions, David Gibbs III from the National Center for Life and Liberty, and The Old Schoolhouse itself — have yet to issue any statements.
Homeschooling should self police. Who is doing the self policing? Well, not us.
I guess they want the abusers to turn themselves in? Is that what they mean by self policing? Seems like we’re continually narrowing who should be allowed to report abuse in homeschooling
Since this isn’t Facebook, consider this my official “like” of Chris’ comment. Self-policing means policing yourself.
Right. If you’re going to talk about self-policing, you have to actually self-police.
I don’t understand this. Is this piece satirical? That cannot be HSLDA’s official statement. Just several weeks ago Mr. Farris wrote a piece (and also spoke for Mr. Mike Smith in it) called, A Line in The Sand apologizing for not naming names and condemning leaders who were a danger within the community. It can be found here: http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/V30N2/V30N202.asp
They speak very adamantly and forcefully on their position about understanding the need to denounce bad leaders and to speak up for the safety of the community.
Here is a direct quote from Mr Farris’s piece: “…we can see a discernible pattern of harm, and it must be addressed. Mike Smith and the HSLDA board of directors join me in apologizing for failing to speak up sooner. We intend to change that, starting now.”
HA, no disrespect, but If this piece is satire, please clarify and/or take it down because it will cause confusion.
No, it’s not satire. Here’s a link to HSLDA’s statement: https://www.facebook.com/hslda/posts/10154651807730198?comment_id=10154675896015198&offset=0&total_comments=1
Jenn, I think what you write here points to HSLDA’s problem, not a problem with HA’s article. HSLDA says a lot of things about their stance against abuse, and then remains silent when there is actual abuse to address.
Isnt it great when you feel so confused up by the mixed messages and double-speak and false pretension that you cant decide if the latest comment it a spoof or for real?
Ah, life in cognitive dissonance….
@Warbler: The comment was sprung from mind-blowing incredulity at the audacity HSLDA has to pawn off a ‘response’ such as !!that!! one as their position. It’s insulting to humans. In a word, the comment was meant to demonstrate the staggering absurdity of it all.
Well I am glad that you think the response they gave was absurd. I agree wholeheartedly
The problem is that their brand of “self-policing” is simply a matter of making sure that their group or church is free from the taint of abuse. Suspected abusers are decreed to have a difference of vision or whatever and quietly shown the back door. There is no actual reporting, no actual stoppage off the problem, just an internal cleanup. And another family goes off the homeschooling grid, its members abandoned to the whims of whatever malady seizes the authority figure this year.
I guessed their official statement would be something like they were quietly investigating behind the scenes but it became a conflict of interest when David Gibbs III got involved to mediate. They’re not even making an effort at this point. An excuse like that might have at least held water for a little while.
Now wait, which is it? Do they want government involvement or not? It seems to me they only want it when it suits their business interests.
Notice they never deny hearing about this situation.
Notice that they also don’t say they ever advised anyone to go to the authorities.
Jenefer Igarashi works for a homeschooling business and Gena Suarez is the owner of TOS, another homeschooling business. If HSLDA joined Igarashi in publicly denouncing/calling to account the Suarezes, there is a real chance the Suarezes could sue HSLDA for “an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade,” a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
HSLDA is a law firm, they must know that–so HSLDA’s actions here actually can be understood as an attempt to FOLLOW THE LAW. So, even though what we’ve heard about the facts of this case are terrible/tragedy, it looks like HSLDA is going as far it can without sparking a lawsuit.
Last time there was a homeschooling Sherman Act case, the plantiff got a $1.3 million settlement–Homeschoolers Anonymous wrote about it here, for the years 1997/1998. http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/a-historical-timeline-of-the-modern-u-s-homeschooling-movement-2/
Jenefer is an employee (not owner) of a software company that has nothing to do with homeschooling per se; there’s no potential for a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act here.
Regardless, the very least HSLDA could have done is (1) respond to Jenefer (rather than ignore her) and explain why they *can’t* get involved (if they truly can’t), and (2) point her in the direction of resources that *can* help her.
By the same logic, would they not also be opening themselves to a lawsuit by publicly denouncing the homeschool mogul, Doug Phillips? HSLDA, in their own words, apologized for not speaking out against dangerous leaders sooner. So speaking out against a leader who attracts (and then zealously defends) child molesters — and who are constant fixtures at homeschool events filled with children — seems to be a line which could be drawn in the sand without fear of legal repercussion.
Not necessarily. They could have made a really non committal statement about severing ties with *insert party here* and that due to conflict of interests and certain suspected issues they are not able to discuss at this time, they will not go forward with their relationship from here and they’ve advised *insert party(ies) here* to issue contact from a list of well-known lawyers who have previously worked with or are sympathetic to the HSLDA.
But, per their usual stance and sand drawings, they, like the song lyrics say; “are as reliable as a painting
In wave wet sand.”
No one is saying that people’s secrets should be broadcast for the fun of it. And no one, especially HSLDA, should be ENCOURAGING secrets and inaction regarding harmful and illegal actions perpetrated on minors.
Why is it so hard for people to see that HSLDA’s “Line in the Sand” is never in the same place twice?
There’s nothing about this situation that could lead to a cognizable Sherman Act claim — you pretty much need to have an agreement to engage in price fixing or bid rigging. That’s not even close to the facts here.
The circumstances were completely different — Seelhoff was being essentially blackmailed by almost 10 organizations. One of their demands was that she cease operating her business.
They told her that their requirements were, “reconciling with my ex-husband; severing my relationship with my now-husband, Rick; discontinuing the publication of Gentle Spirit Magazine; canceling my speaking engagements; turning over the contents of my bank accounts to others; dropping restraining orders; firing my attorney; agreeing to never defend myself or tell my side of the story; agreeing not to answer the phone; not to have a pager, a private post office box, or internet access; and not to go anywhere alone. I was also asked to substitute The Teaching Home Magazine for my own publication. If I would not agree to perform these proofs, then these leaders said they would circulate the contents of my confidential confession [regarding my failed marriage] nationally and publicly.”