By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
The last time Homeschoolers Anonymous covered The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) magazine, it was because TOS owners Paul and Gena Suarez were accused of covering up allegations of sexual abuse and as well as perpetrating child abuse themselves (including waterboarding children). TOS boasts a readership of around 200,000 and is endorsed by James Dobson. Back when the allegations of abuse arose, both the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and the Great Homeschool Conventions (GHC) were financial sponsors of the magazine. While GHC dropped their sponsorship last year, HSLDA continues their financial support of TOS.
In the most recent edition of the HSLDA-sponsored magazine (Winter 2016), TOS features a full-spread piece promoting ALERT Academy. ALERT is a self-described “military-style Christian school” that trains young men in crisis-intervention techniques. It was created by Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). Gothard is the now-disgraced founder of IBLP. He resigned in 2014 on account of allegations that he sexually harassed and molested over 30 young women, including children, for decades. He and IBLP now face a lawsuit from 17 people seeking damages for alleged sexual assault and rape.
The TOS article is featured prominently on the magazine’s front cover with the line, “ALERT Academy: Cultivating Integrity in Your Son!” The author, John Boulden, describes the history of ALERT while making no mention of its relationship with Bill Gothard, IBLP, and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI, Gothard’s homeschool program). He simply describes it as “an outgrowth of a homeschool program.” Boulden also describes numerous homeschool conferences in Knoxville, Tennessee and Big Sandy, Texas, similarly neglecting to mention these conferences are Gothard’s IBLP conferences. Furthermore, while Boulden talks up the benefits of ALERT’s Basic Training, he does not mention that the training involves Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar principles, especially Gothard’s “principle of authority.”
A homeschool alumnus who attended ALERT Academy, which is still an IBLP program, described it as “really nothing more than a glorified boy scout troop; often referred to by some as ‘Gothard’s boy scouts’.” ALERT stands for Air Land Emergency Resource Team. The academy engages in highly controversial training techniques, much like Teen Mania’s suspended Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime (ESOAL) program. Also like ESOAL, ALERT has faced a plethora of abuse allegations. Jeri Lofland details, among other charges, the program’s alleged “refusal to contact parents regarding medical emergencies” and practice of forcing “under-dressed teen boys to stand outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures at night” to elicit confessions. A contributor at Homeschoolers Anonymous describes abusive physical training. And a contributor at Recovering Grace describes emotional and physical abuse as well as medical neglect during his time at ALERT.
Images of TOS’s ALERT article are below: