By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
5 years ago, in 2009, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) claimed Karen S. Tolin and Timothy E. Tolin as a victory for their organization. According to an HSLDA press release on January 12, 2009 (archived as a PDF here),
“When Tim and Karen Sue Tolin received notice that officials with Ubly Community Schools in Michigan had called a due process hearing for their son Sean, they turned to HSLDA for help… They currently have nine adopted children, seven of whom they homeschool. Sean, their 8-year-old, has been diagnosed with multiple challenges… The Tolins withdrew Sean from public school to homeschool him… School officials insisted that the Tolins have Sean undergo the evaluations they recommended and that he be given an Individual Education Plan… Mr. and Mrs. Tolin refused.”
The Tolins were members of HSLDA and contacted the organization for help. HSLDA attorney Darren Jones put pressure on the school district and “Ubly Community Schools dropped the proceedings.”
Fast forward 5 years. Last month, this headline appeared:
Two arraigned on charges after teen found in cage in Michigan’s Thumb
That headline eerily resembles the case of Michael Gravelle, the abusive father and husband that HSLDA attorney Scott Sommerville once called a “hero” and who was later indicated to be a child abuser and wife-beater. Gravelle had similarly placed his adopted children in cages. As it turns out, the two arraigned on charges last month were — you guessed it — Karen S. Tolin and Timothy E. Tolin, the parents HSLDA defended in 2009.
Here are the conditions the Tolins forced their developmentally disabled child into:
Police responded to investigate a civil dispute about 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20, to a home at 3700 Minden Road south of Priemer, when they discovered the mentally challenged male teen in a caged bed with the door chained shut, the Huron County Sheriff’s Department said in a prepared statement.
“The odor was very noticeable as the deputy began to climb the stairs,” Hanson said.
Huron County Prosecutor Timothy Rutkowski said the teen was found naked in the cage with feces and urine around him, based on his review of the police report. The 19-year-old has a developmental disability called Angelman syndrome
Libby Anne at Love Joy Feminism first discovered this story, and made the following observation:
“This is another verifiable case where HSLDA defended the rights of people who turned out to be abusers. In this case, it was actual legal assistance. (I know several individuals whose abusive parents were also defended by HSLDA, but these are stories where social services never became involved and the abuse was never discovered.) Now yes, abusers should have legal defense. It’s how the system works. But HSLDA doesn’t position itself as an organization that defends all comers and sometimes has to do dirty work, it positions itself as the family-friendly smiling face of homeschooling and actively works to shape policy. That HSLDA doesn’t vet those it defends, and does in fact defend abusive and neglectful families, needs to be more widely understood.”