By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Recently Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, posted on social media an image of himself and HSLDA’s Deputy Director of Federal Relations Andrew Mullins heading to Washington, D.C. with the statement, “Snow won’t keep us from fighting for freedom on behalf of millions of homeschoolers around the world!” A homeschool alumna commented on the image, saying, “Smiling won’t keep home school kids from dying from abuse and neglect.”
Will Estrada responded (and fellow HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly agreed with in a subsequent comment) with the following:
We’re fighting for homeschool freedom for ALL kids so they can escape bad public schools. For the gay teen being bullied and his mom wants to homeschool him. For the Christian teen who is told she can’t read her Bible. For the kids in public school who are being sexually abused (see this story: http://www.slate.com/…/is_sexual_abuse_in_schools_very…)
That catchy little slogan “all kids matter” rings hollow because HA and CRHE do nothing to help the kids in the situations above. We do. By fighting for homeschool freedom so parents, not faceless government bureaucrats, can protect their kids.
Which brings us to the major difference between HA/CRHE and HSLDA: HA/CRHE turn to the tired old liberal position: find something wrong, and add more government regulation and laws. Whereas homeschoolers find something wrong and turn to freedom. That’s why homeschool parents continue to win. Sure, HA/CRHE will continue to get little quotes in the NYT, but it’s why homeschool parents, not HA/CRHE are winning in states like VA, PA, IL, MA, and others.
Here is an image of the interaction:
Since Estrada seems unfamiliar with what HA/HARO actually is and does, and confuses us with the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), I figured I’d clear up some things for him:
HA is Homeschoolers Anonymous, an internet project of the non-profit organization Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO). As an organization, HARO gives its unqualified support to children who experience a negative or threatening environment in public schools. This is why, from day one of our organization’s launch, we have made explicit that we support homeschooling. As HARO’s FAQ page states, “We believe that homeschooling is a powerful, useful tool. It represents a democratic approach to educational progress, innovation, and creativity. It allows a child’s learning environment to be tailored to individual and personal needs. When homeschooling is done responsibly, it can be amazing.”
HARO’s mission is to support homeschooling families and communities by educating those families and communities how to make homeschooling safer and more supportive to at-risk children. We created a free curriculum on child abuse awareness that such families and communities can download and utilize. Our presentation Facing Our Fears: How the Voices of Homeschool Alumni Can Help Homeschooling gives multiple constructive suggestions for how homeschoolers can rethink certain ideas that have created problems for alumni. We have more such curriculums and presentations in development. We are currently offering a scholarship for homeschool alumna who are entering STEM fields.
So yes, Estrada, HARO does help kids who want to be homeschooled… by helping to make sure homeschooling is a place that they actually want to be and in which they will thrive.
In contrast, here’s the sad truth about what Estrada said: HSLDA’s “help” for these children ends the day they become homeschoolers. Estrada and his organization are “fighting for freedoms” for homeschooling parents; they have no interest in fighting for the freedoms and rights of homeschooled children. In fact, HSLDA — and Estrada himself — have repeatedly gone on record opposing any rights for children. They refused to launch a public awareness campaign about child abuse for their members. They have made light of educationally neglected children. They have gone to bat for parents who put their children in cages. They have defended convicted child abusers. They have given legal and financial support to more than one abusive high-control group. They have promoted books that encourage physical child abuse and gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to a man who has been accused since the 1980’s of sexually harassing and molesting over 30 women. They even refused to help a homeschool mom who was desperate for guidance after her child was allegedly molested by the child of another homeschool leader.
HSLDA has made the lives of numerous homeschooled children a nightmare.
There are homeschooled children who remained trapped in abusive homes because of HSLDA.
So while HARO believes strongly in the power of homeschooling and believes it should be an option for children (especially at-risk children), we are not going to give Estrada gold stars for pretending that somehow bullied LGBT* kids can “escape bad public schools” because of HSLDA. He doesn’t get to whitewash his organization’s history towards either children’s rights or LGBT* issues. And we refuse to entertain Estrada’s revisionist attempt to clothe HSLDA as a champion of LGBT* children when he and his organization daily and explicitly contribute to their dehumanization and oppression.
Finally: HARO is not the same organization as the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), which Estrada could have discovered with a simple Google search. HARO has never been quoted in the New York Times. But if we ever have the opportunity, we would tell the newspaper the same thing we would tell Estrada: that HARO’s position is neither to “add more government regulation and laws” nor to “turn to freedom”; HARO’s position is that we must stop turning a blind eye to the children left damaged and abandoned when organizations like HSLDA value “winning” more than actual children’s lives.
Since HSLDA has made clear they are willing to let homeschooled children be the collateral damage of their “winning” strategies, others must rise to the occasion and do the hard work of protecting those in harm’s way. This is the task to which HARO has dedicated itself.
Homeschooled kids do matter. The question is whether or not HSLDA will someday acknowledge that fact.