HSLDA Opposes Anti-Bullying Bill

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Working Word.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 12, 2015.

HSLDA Opposes Anti-Bullying Bill is actually the title of HSLDA’s own article on a bill currently before the Iowa legislature. At least they’re being honest about it, I suppose? We’ve talked before about the ways the Home School Legal Defense Association’s lobbying veers out into topics that have nothing to do with homeschooling, but honestly, this case is out there even for them. Let’s have a look, shall we?

HSLDA opposes the anti-bullying bill now pending in the Iowa Legislature, SF 345, because of the breathtakingly broad authority it gives school officials off school grounds.

If the bill were only about running the public schools, HSLDA would probably stay on the sidelines. However, the bill is not just about running the public schools. It gives power to public schools to call law enforcement agencies, social workers, etc., if they believe any person has bullied a public school student.

So let’s get this straight. The “breathtakingly broad authority” the bill gives school officials is the “power . . . to call law enforcement agencies, social workers, etc., if they believe any person has bullied a public school student.” The bill doesn’t add anything to the criminal code. The bill is about school discipline. Yes, it states that school officials may call law enforcement or social services about incidents that occur off of school property, but that’s literally it. That doesn’t sound either “breathtaking” or “broad.”

Legal Changes

Section 5 of the bill would create a new subsection of Iowa Code section 282.28. It would be labeled as subsection 9.

Paragraph (a), the first paragraph of subsection 9, only allows schools to punish public school students. Paragraph (a) is not uniquely problematic for homeschool families.

But the second paragraph of subsection 9, paragraph (b), operates completely independently of subsection (a). Paragraph (b) contains no limits whatsoever as to whom the school can punish for bullying. It could be a homeschool student, a private school student, or any adult.

Actually, as we’ll see in a moment, this is wrong. Subsection 9, paragraph (b) is in fact dependent on subsection 9, paragraph (a). They go together, and there are limits. But there’s something else weird going on here.

The punishment in that case would be the school “referring” the matter to law enforcement, social workers, and other vaguely defined agencies. If you don’t think being investigated, intimidated, accused, or pressured by law enforcement or social workers is “punishment,” you have probably never been through it.

So wait a minute. Our legal process is designed to determine who has transgressed the law and what punishment is necessary for those who are convicted. But here, HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff is saying that the legal process itself is punishment. Look, I get that law enforcement can be corrupt or inept, and I get that disadvantaged populations may even find themselves exploited by the police, but the argument Woodruff is making is simply untenable.

But wait. Why would these individuals be reported to law enforcement to begin with?

Facing Allegations

And while paragraph (a) only gives the school power to mete out punishment if the bullying is “founded,” paragraph (b) allows the school to initiate punishment if the bullying is merely alleged. So based on nothing more than an allegation, someone with no connection with a public school could find a policeman, social worker, and others knocking at his door to investigate him.

SF 345 gives the public schools the power to punish every citizen in their district by causing them to be investigated. This is inappropriate and unwise. Therefore HSLDA opposes the bill.

HSLDA has veered into serious conspiracy territory here.

Let’s look at the bill text itself for a moment.

9. Authority off school grounds. 

a. A school official may investigate and impose school discipline in a founded case of harassment or bullying that occurs outside of school, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity if all of the following apply:

(1) An incident of harassment or bullying is reported pursuant to the school’s policy adopted under subsection 3, paragraph “e”.

(2) The alleged incident of harassment or bullying has an effect on a student on school grounds that creates an objectively hostile school environment that meets one or more of the conditions set out under subsection 2, paragraph “b”.

b. A school official’s investigation and response to an alleged incident of bullying or harassment that occurs outside of school, off of school property, or away from a school function or school-sponsored activity may include referring the matter to appropriate community-based agencies including but not limited to social services agencies, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

Paragraph (b) cannot operate independently of paragraph (a) because it is about the investigation process outlined in paragraph (a). Without paragraph (a), paragraph (b) cannot function. In other words, what this section says is that if an incident of harassment or bullying off of school property results in a hostile school environment for a student, the school has the authority to investigate the off-campus incident and impose school discipline accordingly—and that their investigation and response may involve contacting social services or law enforcement. That is quite literally it.

HSLDA points out that paragraph (a) specifies that school discipline can be imposed in “founded” cases of harassment or bullying, but that paragraph (b) does not use the word “founded.” But paragraph (b) is crystal clear that reporting such cases may be part of schools’ “investigation and response” to incidences of bullying and harassment that take place off of school property and create an objectively hostile school environment. This isn’t insidious, it’s smart policy. Sometimes law enforcement will be best equipped to investigate these situations.

I cannot for the life of me understand how HSLDA takes this benign provision and comes away with the conclusion that the bill “gives the public schools the power to punish every citizen in their district by causing them to be investigated.” Look, in order to create “an objectively hostile school environment,” an incident of harassment or bullying that occurs off of school property will likely involve another student. In other words, this isn’t about homeschooled students. It’s about kids bullied by fellow students off of school property.

But let’s imagine, for a moment, that a homeschooled child manages to bully and harass a public school student to the point that that student’s “school environment” becomes “objectively hostile. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for this situation to be reported to law enforcement or social services, if the circumstances warranted it? Is this seriously what HSLDA is opposing here? Are they honestly arguing that homeschooled students have a right to not be reported to law enforcement for harassment and bullying that trumps public schooled students’ right to not be harassed and bullied? For real?!

Let’s look at how the existing law defines “hostile school environment”:

b. “Harassment” and “bullying” shall be construed to mean any electronic, written, verbal, or physical act or conduct toward a student which is based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student and which creates an objectively hostile school environment that meets one or more of the following conditions:

(1) Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or property.

(2) Has a substantially detrimental effect on the student’s physical or mental health.

(3) Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s academic performance.

(4) Has the effect of substantially interfering with the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

This is the section referred to in section 9, paragraph (a). It should be fairly clear at this point why the school making a report to law enforcement or social services might well be warranted if incidences of harassment or bullying off of school property were creating a hostile school environment for a child, as defined above. I mean good gracious, “an objectively hostile school environment” can mean an environment which “places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or property.”

I have to say, I am really bothered by the idea that reporting an incident of bullying or harassment to law enforcement or social services is some sort of terrible unwarranted punishment. I have friends who got death threats this week, over the internet. They reported these threats to the relevant law enforcement—and they were right to do so. It’s as though HSLDA thinks it’s reporting someone for bullying or harassment that is the real bullying or harassment.

Let’s look at HSLDA’s last line again:

SF 345 gives the public schools the power to punish every citizen in their district by causing them to be investigated. This is inappropriate and unwise. Therefore HSLDA opposes the bill.

You know, HSLDA is against mandatory universal reporting of child abuse for the same reason—they see being reported for child abuse or neglect as such a horrific experience that they would prefer depressed rates of reporting to save innocent families from being investigated even if it means some cases of actual child abuse and neglect go unreported. This is not how our legal system is supposed to work! The entire point of our legal system is to determine who is innocent and who is guilty!

Do you know what’s worse than innocent people being investigated and then cleared of all allegations? Abusers and harassers going unreported because reporting abuse is seen as worse than abuse.

My daughter is in public school. I would like to know that if a student from school is harassing her off of school grounds, the school would step in and do something about it—including calling law enforcement or social services if necessary. How HSLDA can take such an important bill and turn it into a threat to homeschoolers is utterly beyond me. What it comes down to is this: HSLDA is upset that schools may report cases of bullying or harassment that occur off of school property to law enforcement or social services. This is utterly reprehensible.

It’s Not Just the Religious Homeschoolers: Alianne’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Lee Haywood. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Lee Haywood. Image links to source.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Alianne” is a pseudonym.

We’re both in our twenties now, but my brother and I were homeschooled from elementary school through high school graduation. To put it simply, the entire experience was an absolute nightmare. However, it didn’t appear that way to other people nor did it appear like that on the surface of the image our mother and father tried to present to everyone.

When I was a child, people would comment on my writing or math skills and would give credit to homeschooling or my parents who happily bragged about it. But the reality was that my mother taught me absolutely nothing. She wasn’t even remotely skilled in either math or essay writing. I taught myself how to be very skilled with math and writing techniques, without any help from my parents whatsoever.

In my older brother’s case, the “education” he received was also absolutely zero and he didn’t fare as well as I did. Our parents rarely tried to help him, and hardly mentioned him or any skills he had to anyone, let alone bragged.

Our mother and father epitomized the braggadocio of homeschool parenting:

Always mention the “good” side that’s beneficial to them, and lie and stretch the truth of anything negative that would prove the opposite of the image they’re trying to present to everyone as truth.

Now that we’re older and we’re more capable of understanding what our mother and father really did to us, we’ve both realized that many of the common phrases and rationalizations that homeschoolers use simply aren’t true. To keep it simple, I’ll only post the main three misconceptions we came to realize:

1. Socialization:

Homeschool parents will use the excuses that their children are socialized because they join groups, have many activities, even have friends from public school, etc. However, parents will often neglect to mention the fact that in many families these activities only happen occasionally or just a few times per week. Many children don’t have any real interaction on a daily basis with other children and are only allowed to interact at the parent’s convenience, not in the way what the children really need.

My main point aside from that, though, is that many children are not being socialized properly or learning how to deal with regular social situations, or aka the “real” world. For example, the majority of the people my brother and I grew up around (we lived in a middle class, nice neighborhood, not a terrible one) had addictions, and were dangerous people who had many issues (although neither of us really recognized that until we were in our teens). Being surrounded by dangerous and unsafe people all day isn’t what I would call a safe, healthy, or normal environment for a child to grow up in, let alone the “real” world. Public school may be bad in some instances, but at least the kids will be surrounded mostly by other children (and also, not all public schools are huge terrible places of bullying or drugs/alcohol/sex, now that I’ve heard the stories of people who actually went to public school, I understand that) and not grown adult men and women coming off drug and alcohol highs first thing in the morning.

2. The parents know their children better than anyone:

No, many parents think they do, but they certainly don’t, and neither did our parents. I had anxiety issues and anxiety attacks all throughout my childhood, and was very shy until my late teens. In my brother’s case, although he was very social, he was bullied in elementary school, and had been a target for other children since the day he started. However, once we both reached late teens/adulthood, our issues went away for the most part. Why? Because we were away from our parents’ influence for longer periods of time than before, so their own anxiety and emotional issues no longer had any effect on us. We were both able to act normally for the first time in our lives.

So while our parents would have said that they knew we both had different issues and that’s why we had to stay at home, our issues came directly from being around them. So their decision to homeschool the two of us did absolutely nothing to benefit our lives. We honestly would have been far better off in public school and with two working parents.

In other words,  forcing the child to become the main focus of the parents doesn’t necessarily help them to grow.

It may temporarily stop the problems and it may even help their education to an extent, but it won’t really help the child to deal with situations on their own terms. How can you have your own terms, when the belief system you have and everything surrounding you is dominated by your mother and father?

To be fair, I’m aware of the fact that public school can have the same negative effects on children. However, I’ve met plenty of people who went to public school and who aren’t monsters, drug/alcohol addicts or terrible people by default. Public school doesn’t force every child on the planet to have issues and problems. There are many kids who go to regular school and turn out perfectly fine, don’t have bullying issues, are extremely intelligent, very self-motivated, etc.

I realize people use those same justifications to homeschool, but what I’m trying to say is this: When a child goes off by themselves and isn’t surrounded by the parents’ influences all the time, they will be exposed to different points of view, not just their parents’ main dominating viewpoint. They’ll also have the opportunity to develop their own selves when they are away from their parents. Thus they have the opportunity to choose by themselves to not do dangerous and unhealthy things. By finally being away from our mother and father, my brother and I were able to make safe and healthy choices and set boundaries with other people by ourselves, finally, and for the first time in our entire lives.

Also, I’ve read horror stories online about children who want nothing more than to be homeschooled because the bullying is so severe. Some of their stories actually sounded very similar to what my brother went through. I’ve also seen firsthand the emotional and physical effects of what he endured from other kids. So I’m not naive regarding what can happen to children in public school systems, or dismissive of what happened to my brother in the slightest. However, I’ve also talked with him about it, and as a grown man in his twenties he completely agrees with me that the homeschooling was a horrible idea that helped neither of us. It was all for our parents’ emotional benefit.

Furthermore, as an adult he’s now perfectly able to stand up for himself and will tell people exactly how he feels about something, even if it’s rude, might incite people, etc. He’s able to do so because as he got older he handled people by himself, without our parents influencing everything 24/7 and learned how to deal with it. Our mother and father were both very weak people emotionally, and that definitely rubbed off on both me and my brother.

3. Homeschooled children are almost always better, more educated, and amazing awesome kids — especially compared to public school children:

No, that’s not even remotely true. There are sites and forums where you can read many of the stories from homeschooled kids who had miserable and dysfunctional childhoods. And to make it clear, I’m not just referring to the religious families. My family was semi-Christian and semi-New Age. My brother and I had never attended a church or sermon a day in our lives. My parents never forced religion on us in the slightest manner.

Also, most of the Homeschool/Unschool blogs you see on the internet are written and promoted by the parents. There aren’t very many positive blogs written by the children, because whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the majority of homeschooled kids aren’t happy or well adjusted in society, so they can’t write something that isn’t true. Yes, I have read stories from graduated homeschooled kids who say they were happy the entire time they were homeschooled. Yes, they might honestly have been.

However, to have the audacity to deny and pretend that there aren’t many, many homeschooled children living and interacting in dysfunctional families is absolutely ridiculous.

Of course, you could say the same for public school, but at least in that situation the children can actually get away from their households. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t always places where the families get along wonderfully well, or the children are always happy to be around them. Homeschooling may seem to work very well for a young child, but I’ve never in my life met a homeschooled teen who was happy. Some of them would put on a facade and pretend they were, but once I got to know them… Well, I’ll just say drugs/alcohol/having sex at a young age/depression isn’t only for public school kids, not even remotely.

The parents might not be aware, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Many of the blogging parents will exaggerate how awesome the homeschooling is and leave out all of the negative effects, or how the children really feel about everything. In our case, my brother and I were miserable 24/7, but our mother and father never mentioned that to anyone. We didn’t mention it, because we were afraid at how angry our parents would have been if we told the truth about how we really felt. Also, we felt very isolated; we interacted with public school kids too, but for the most part we knew that anything we said would eventually get back to our parents. Having a close knit community, or living where your parents schedule everything doesn’t exactly give a good opportunity to be honest about anything. And for the record, our parents weren’t extremists who did the forms of abuse found in many of the stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous. For the most part, they acted fairly normally and mainly just had social anxiety issues.

Yet my brother and I weren’t more educated in the slightest. The only reason I was able to even graduate highschool was because I used an online school program. My brother wasn’t able to get past highschool level, and so he suffered a lot academically as well. One thing I can’t stand more than anything else I see parents write on the homeschooling blogs, is how homeschooling takes so much effort. That’s not true in every case, and it’s certainly not true by default of being a homeschooling parent.

Both of our parents didn’t put in much effort at all for our education. Our father put in absolutely zero of any kind of effort, and left everything to our mother. She stayed at home, and I can honestly say that she would spend 8-10 hrs of her day watching television, and taught us absolutely nothing. Also, there are many other homeschooled kids with similar stories, who suffered a lot academically due to being homeschooled/unschooled.

On the other hand, I have read stories of successful unschool graduates who made it through college. So, I’m not denying the fact that it can be done. However, my point is that if a child can survive being homeschooled/unschooled and still make out okay, and doesn’t have any severe issues to deal with, then public school would be effortless for them, and in my opinion that’s where they should stay.

Finally, I understand that public school doesn’t work for children with special needs, or who have more extreme issues to deal with. However, I absolutely believe that (aside from children in very complicated situations), homeschooling should only be used very temporarily, and not ever seen as a permanent solution. You can solve some issues with homeschooling, but that doesn’t mean you should just stick to it for the rest of the child’s life. Whatever issues the children have will need to be dealt with eventually.

Hiding them from the world and people for the rest of their childhood doesn’t solve or fix anything.

Public school may not be seen as the “right” environment, but it’s the main environment the majority of people grew up in. So if they haven’t dealt with their issues, when they finally reach the adult world people will still be acting and functioning the same way they were before, so trying to pretend that doesn’t have any impact later on isn’t realistic. Most importantly, it keeps the children away from other opportunities and situations that could have actually been good, and far better than the homeschooling.

Bullied and Bullying: Aaron K Collett’s Story, Part Two


Aaron K Collett is currently a Communication major, with an emphasis in Digital Film making. Aaron blogs at Bringing Thought to Life.

Part One

Part Two: Bullied and Bullying

Unlike many people coming out of homeschooling, I technically was not isolated – I got to go to a school with other people, I wasn’t stuck at home, and we referred to it in all ways as if it were a real school (spoiler: it kind of wasn’t). But “not technically being isolated” does not equal “had the opportunity for healthy relationships with my peers”.

For one thing, the school was K-12 with 60 students. We were almost literally a one-room schoolhouse. Now, the reasoning is student will learn to interact with people better if they have to interact with all ages. That can be true. It’s also true that it gives bullies a wider range of targets. And Christians are often not good at identifying and mitigating bullying, especially since the idea of God put forth by ACE is the biggest bully of all.

I was bullied pretty much from the time I started at RMCS in 1998 until the time I left in 2004.

It wasn’t the same person the whole time; sometimes it was older students, sometimes it was the teachers. In at least one occasion, to my eternal shame, I was the bully. It wasn’t any one thing – bullies are adaptable like that. But often it was because of my success academically, as far as the other students were concerned.

People lash out when they feel threatened. Because I hadn’t been in the program since elementary school, I was seen as an outsider. Since I worked so well in a self-paced program, I was an outsider that was threatening the status quo – I was better than them at “their” thing.

The teachers did not help, however. In fact, the teachers were a big part of the problem. Once, I reached the end of my patience, and went to the principal to report one particular person who had been terrorizing me particularly badly one week. Her response was to give me a chapter from the Bible to read and take care of it myself***.

Unfortunately, as is all too common, the abused becomes the abuser. Steeped in a culture which portrayed God as a merciless bully and being bullied every day myself, I projected. I became a bully myself. Not all the time, but once is enough. I shamed someone because of their height. The thing people have perhaps the least control over. I found out later she went home sobbing every day. I don’t know if she ever forgave me; I probably never will. But even if she did, I still did that harm. That won’t ever go away.

The curriculum, combined with the culture of abuse and bullying, created an awful high school experience for me.

I begged to go to a public school, or even home-school. I got to be home-schooled for one year, which was spectacular. I still had the curriculum issues (which I wasn’t aware of at the time), but the bullying had stopped. I didn’t have to worry who was going to terrorize me when I got to school in the morning.

I could just get up, have breakfast, and learn on my own, which was all I really wanted to do anyway.

End of series.

*** The passage in question was Matthew 18. Here’s the relevant bit:

 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’[b] And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Those are instructions for adults. Who mostly have the same power level as each other. This particular student had at least two years, 100 lbs, and 12 inches on me. When you tell children to deal with their “problems” that way, you are setting them up to be bullied even more. It was almost criminally irresponsible for the principal of the freaking school to give those instructions to a child being bullied. And that’s even without the implied shaming for “tattling” on another student, or the implied shaming of failing to “turn the other cheek”.

Raising Godly Tomatoes: Book Review By Sarah Dutko

By Sarah Dutko, member of the LaQuiere Group (1991-1999). This review was originally posted on Amazon September 2, 2014, revision re-posted on September 9.

I feel that I need to write this review because as someone who knows Mrs. Krueger personally, and lived out the methods she teaches in her book, I feel I need to warn any parents considering buying this book or using her methods. This is the second time I’ve posted this review, because Amazon removed my review the first time, after someone apparently complained about it. I’m not sure why Amazon feels the need to censor negative reviews of Mrs. Krueger’s book, but no matter, I will keep posting it if Amazon removes it again, because I am determined to reach parents who are considering Mrs. Krueger’s methods and tell them the truth.

I not only know Mrs. Krueger, I grew up with her and her children: for 8 years I (and my family) were a part of the same fundamentalist cult that she and her family still belong to. I’d like to provide some valuable perspective on what it is like to grow up under this kind of child “training”, and the kind of damage it does to children.

Mrs. Krueger’s child-training methods are not original to her, or just “common sense”, as she claims: they come directly from a man named Joe LaQuiere who was the leader of our cult up until he died this past year (she mentions him and his wife in her book as a “godly older couple” who gave them advice). This cult to which Mrs. Krueger and her family still belong is an insular, legalistic group with neo-Jewish practices, such as eating no pork products, celebrating the Sabbath (Saturday), condemnation of Christmas trees for being “pagan”, as well as using emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse to control its members. Having lived through it from age 6 to 14, and having family members who are still a part of this cult, gives me a unique insider’s perspective, which will hopefully provide you with enough information about the damaging and evil results of this method of “child-training” that you will help in warning against it, as it has become far too popular in the ultra-conservative, homeschooling movement, which is beginning to see a whole generation of survivors speak up about the abuses they’ve experienced, and give warning to the dangers inherent to the homeschooling community.

I am going to quote here both from Mrs. Krueger’s book, and from an article she wrote at the same time as her book.

Here is the first quote from her book. Mrs. Krueger writes:

“Let me share my experience with my third born…One day we were visiting some close friends and he decided to exert his new found power. He blatantly refused to come to Dad when Dad called him. He ignored Dad and continued playing with our friend’s telephone instead, about six feet from where my husband and I were sitting. The friends we were visiting were excellent parents and offered their advice, which we readily accepted. They coached us to outlast him, instructing Dad to keep calling him. When he didn’t budge, Dad was directed to go over to him, administer a little swat on the bottom (over clothes and a diaper), then return to where he’d been sitting and call him again. We were encouraged to repeat this, pausing appropriately between repeats, until he obeyed us…Finally, after approximately an hour and a half, he began to cry and take a few steps toward us, but he still refused to come all the way. He still did not want to totally give up the power he had enjoyed exerting over us. Each time he took a few steps toward us then stopped, we would replace him back by the phone and call him to come to us again. We devoted the next half hour to making sure he obeyed completely, not just partially…This one outlasting session had a considerable and exciting long-term impact on our child. He clearly learned he was under our authority and must always obey us…The initial two-hour ordeal never needed repeating.”


These “friends” who were “excellent parents” that she refers to are Joe LaQuiere and his wife, her mentors, and they are the people who taught her to use the methods in her book (as well as much more abusive methods which they themselves used on children, including my own siblings). This method of teaching toddlers to obey by spanking them…and then repeating…and repeating…and repeating…for 2 straight hours….or as long as it takes (which is what she means by “outlasting them” – a concept she refers to many times in her book)…is exactly the kind of child-training my family and I experienced in the cult. I’d like to share one more quote, this one from her online article that she wrote at the same time as her book. This article is from “Christian Moms of Many Blessings” (http://www.cmomb.com/child-training/). I quote a portion of what Mrs. Krueger writes:

“Don’t be afraid of a confrontation. It is helpful to set up a confrontational situation in the case of a toliler [my note: I think this is a typo for “toddler”] who is “out of control.” For example, tell him to sit on the couch next to you. When he tries to get down, give him a firm swat on the bottom and say, “No” in an `I mean business’ tone. Continue this every time he tries to get down until he stops trying. If he actually makes it off the couch, tell him to climb back up himself, if he is big enough, or replace him if needed. Don’t restrain him. Don’t give in. Ignore his crying. You are not done until he sits there quietly for as long as you want him to without resisting. Let him fall asleep if he likes. Even after he stops resisting, don’t let him down too soon. Ten or 20 minutes or even an hour is not too long. Once you have done this, continue to expect him to obey everything you tell him to do.”

Both this method and the method described earlier by her in her book were used to train young toddlers, as young as one year old, in our cult. These methods in particular were used on my little brother, Joshua, during one of the “training sessions” that Mrs. Krueger’s mentor, Joe LaQuiere, conducted in order to teach his followers how to train “obedient” children. Joshua was made to sit on my mom or dad’s lap, and spanked every time he tried to get down. He was a bright and happy baby, but very stubborn. He didn’t want to give in, but kept on trying to get down, and getting spanked for it, over, and over, and over, and over. He’d cry and cry, but he wasn’t allowed to be comforted until he “submitted” and gave in. The goal was to get him to “sit there quietly for as long as you want him to without resisting”, as Mrs. Krueger wrote. This “training” session started in the afternoon, and went on…all afternoon…and evening…late into the night. It was 2 or 3 in the morning before Joe LaQuiere okay-ed stopping for the night. At this point they had been “training” him to sit still and not cry for over 6 hours. He was not allowed to nurse during this time, or to see his mother (my mom), because that would “comfort him”, and they wanted him to be miserable until he gave in and obeyed. You may think “a small swat on the bottom” does not sound over-the-top for a small toddler as a way to get them to sit quietly (as if toddlers were created to “sit quietly” – their nature, and their developmental needs, as any child psychologist can tell you, require them to explore, not sit quietly for hours). What about spanking them over…and over…and over…for 6 hours straight? Does that sound abusive? Mrs. Krueger’s methods (really, Joe LaQuiere’s methods) say that you CANNOT GIVE UP until your child (or baby) submits to you and obeys, no matter how long that takes. If it takes all night, so be it. If it takes dozens, or a hundred spankings, so be it. This is not training, this is child abuse. My one-year-old brother Josh was subjected to this “training” day after day, until he finally, sullenly, gave in, and was now a “well-trained” baby, who would sit quietly on demand, and not try to get down and play in normal toddler fashion. In a few short months, he went from a bubbly, laughing one-year-old to a quiet, sullen, baby who rarely smiled. He was mostly silent from then on: he didn’t speak until he was nearly 4. Joe LaQuiere, (who, remember, is Mrs. Krueger’s mentor, and the one who taught her these methods) said Joshua was an exceptionally “rebellious” baby, and it was necessary to discipline the “rebelliousness” out of him until his will was broken.

See, Mrs. Krueger’s book, and her advice, is really the somewhat-milder face of Joe LaQuiere’s teaching: the public face, if you will. She watched more violent abuse occur, and was taught that it was acceptable: babies having their faces stuffed into couch cushions to teach them not to cry – children being beaten mercilessly with “The Paddle”, not once, as she writes in her book, but often 20 or 30 times. Children being dragged by their hair, thrown against walls, or dangled in the air by their throats. My own siblings endured all of these abuses, and I was made to watch.

Mrs. Krueger, whether or not she treated her own children quite this severely, watched this abuse happen to other children, and agreed with it. Her book is merely the milder, public face of private child abuse, because she knows that some of the stricter methods taught by Joe LaQuiere would be too unpalatable to put in print, as well as likely to land her (and him) in trouble with law enforcement. But make no mistake that it occurs. To be fair, Mrs. Krueger and her husband I don’t believe followed every child “training” (abuse) method that Joe LaQuiere taught: she and her family are best friends with him (one of her daughters is even married to one of Joe LaQuiere’s sons), and while their methods differ somewhat in severity, the principle is the same: OBEDIENCE is paramount, and it is of little importance HOW you get your children to obey, or how often you must beat them, as long as the end result is IMMEDIATE, UNQUESTIONING obedience, from children of any age, even through adulthood. THIS is the goal (which is in itself a very bad goal) and the methods used to achieve it, as touted by Joe LaQuiere, through the mouthpiece of Mrs. Krueger, are cruel and damaging.

To this day, I suffer panic attacks and horrible flashbacks to watching my brothers and sisters abused through this method of child-rearing. I grew up emotionally-stunted, being taught that ‘a cheerful face’ was the only acceptable expression, and that any negative emotions I felt, like anger, or sadness, or frustration, were sin, and needed to be corrected. Thus I learned to disassociate myself from my emotions, effectively divorcing them from my conscious mind, which is a process I am still trying, with the help of therapy, to undo. The children, including those in my family, who grew up under these methods, are emotionally unstable; are fearful of and often unable to make their own decisions; are unable to move into independent adulthood without the constant guidance of parents telling them what to do; and worst of all, have a false and damaging picture of who God is, and who they are meant to be.

After leaving the cult that Mrs. Krueger belongs to, I was confused, depressed, and suicidal. I believed that God was an angry God who despised me for not reaching His standards of perfection. I learned nothing about grace through this experience. Thank God, I discovered it after I left, and realized that God does not treat us like Joe LaQuiere and Mrs. Krueger do their children: punishing every crime and dealing out justice until we are perfect. Instead, He already provided the perfect righteousness that we can never achieve through Jesus, and gave us in one fell swoop, a perfect record and status with him, and complete forgiveness of all sins, past and future! He doesn’t demand perfect performance from us to gain His acceptance. We are not “spanked” until we learn to obey Him instantly, with no questions, and with a false smile. Instead, He loves on us, extravagantly, and at great personal cost to Himself, in order to draw us to Himself…by LOVE. LOVE is what calls us to CHOOSE to obey Him – not repeated punishment, or the fear that He will only “enjoy us” as long as we fulfill the letter of His law. THIS is how we need to treat our children: with the same mercy and grace that God showers on us. To follow Mrs. Krueger’s method instead will give our children an outward layer of “goodness”, on which they think their acceptance by God depends, while inwardly they remain full of sin and darkness, needing God’s redeeming love and GRACE to flood in and wash them clean! Mrs. Krueger’s book and methods create little Pharisees: looking pretty good on the outside, but with aching hearts inside, knowing the misery of never being “good enough”. Thank God we don’t HAVE to be “good enough” for Him: we already are, thanks to the sacrifice He made for us!

Please PLEASE do not buy this book, or use these methods on your children!! Try instead something like “Families where Grace is in Place”, or “Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Children with the Love of Jesus” both EXCELLENT books! Leave Mrs. Krueger’s book where it belongs…forgotten, gathering dust in her basement somewhere, while your children flourish in the LOVE and GRACE of God!

If you have any questions, or would like to ask me specifics about why Mrs. Krueger’s methods are so damaging, please feel free to email me at sarah.dutko77@gmail.com! I’d love to talk with you 🙂

When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Dillon Cossey

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 5.36.11 PM

Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.

Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.


Dillon Cossey

In 2007, 14-year-old Dillon Cossey from Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania was arrested for plotting a “Columbine-style attack” on a local high school.

In 2007, 14-year-old Dillon Cossey from Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania was arrested for plotting a "Columbine-style attack" on a local high school.
In 2007, 14-year-old Dillon Cossey from Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania was arrested for plotting a “Columbine-style attack” on a local high school.

Dillon was enrolled in public school through middle school. He experienced bullying and frequent torment. As a result, his guidance counselor referred him in 2005 to a support team. This team met with his mother, 46-year-old Michele Cossey, who expressed at the time she was concerned about — among other things — her son’s “military obsession.” In 2006, the district said it “was actively and constructively working with the family until the family chose to withdraw the child from the Colonial School District.”

It was in 7th grade that Michele withdrew Dillon from public school to be homeschooled. During this time, Michele directly helped Dillon obtain weapons — this despite her own expressed concern in 2005 that he had a disconcerting military obsession. She illegally bought Dillon “a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle with a laser scope.” (His father, 56-year-old Frank Cossey, also attempted to buy him a rifle in 2005.)

While homeschooled, Dillon had very few opportunities to interact with people outside his home. He reportedly was “so totally desocialized, he has no friends.” For his home education, his mother “let him get his lessons off the Web.”

Inspired by the bullying he experienced in public school, Dillon developed a plan to attack a public high school, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. On his MySpace page, Dillon listed the Columbine school shooting as an interest and paid tribute to that shooting’s masterminds, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. His massacre plans were prevented when he attempted to recruit another boy. The attempted recruit tipped off the police. When police searched Dillon’s room, they found an entire inventory of weaponry, including not only guns but swords and a bomb-making book.

Dillon was charged with conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder as well as  conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. He was sentenced in December 2007 to up to 7 years in a juvenile treatment center. After his sentencing, Dillon told the judge that, “I am very sorry, but I do want to get help. I also hope that me and my family as a whole can get help.”

Michele Coffey also received multiple charges, including 3 felonies for buying weapons for a minor. The judge that sentenced Dillon sharply reprimanded her, saying Michele instilled in Dillon “a ‘me and Mom against the world’ attitude.”

View the case index here.

Two Messages that Children Internalize that Contribute to Bullying in Patriarchal Church and Homeschool Groups

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 10.50.41 PM

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on January 4, 2014.

Homeschooled children sometimes experience bullying from peers. Part of this stems from the messages that children absorb about themselves.

1. Children respond to the tiered authority by owning the message that they are the not as good as other people and exist to serve people who appear to be more powerful than they are;

2. Children respond to the opposite message that they are the best and brightest and most privileged and enact that power on others. 

I have mentioned the issue of bullying in homeschool groups in passing in a previous post, but bullying in homeschooling families and homeschool groups is a serious issue. In a well-meaning homeschooling family from a conservative background, there are several patterns, such as adherence to patriarchal family systems and the sense of responsibility held by the parents to teach their children to succeed in life and grow up to be adults with the same mindset and goals as the parents. There is also often a commitment to having a large family.

This creates unique family power dynamics.

Depending on how the family works, they will send a message to their children that corresponds with one of the point above: that the child is valued and special, or that the child is part of a plan that has nothing to do with the child.

Socialization has become almost a joke to both sides of the homeschooling debate, but the reality is that children who are homeschooled spend less time with other non-siblings, and sometimes this is even the goal of homeschooling. In patriarchal families, children are often authority-tiered in birth order, although preference in the ranking is sometimes given to boys. Sometimes this happens in large families due to the difficulty in parenting large numbers of children, and mothers bring in older daughters to take on various aspects of homemaking and parenting.

There is a large amount of anecodotal evidence that speaks to how damaging sibling parenting can be. There is a series posted by Heather Doney that tells the stories of sister-moms. Many of the personal stories shared on both No Longer Quivering and Homeschoolers Anonymous also outline the difficulties of being an adult who helped raise their own siblings. Children who are part of this tiered authority find themselves always as part of a ranked system, which is different from the experience of children who attend school, who are grouped with peers in spite of status struggles.

Homeschool groups and church “families” are touted as a significant source of socialization opportunities for homeschooled children. However, this means that children who spend most of their time in a tiered family structure are then tossed together as an artificial peer group and left to find their own status among themselves, which is one of the things that some homeschooling parents say they are attempting to avoid. The source for the information in this post is lived experience.

Children in homeschooling groups and church groups vie for status at the expense of each other, just as children do in public and private schools. They put each other down, and use similar ways of determining popularity as public schooled children do, including appearance, status of parents, ownership of desired items, and overall apparent confidence levels. They sometimes use physical strength to exert control as well. Parents do not always see the bullying but it does take place.

However, homeschooled children in these families are also subject to real responsibility/authority status and a tight social circle that is includes all available peers.

Girls sometimes compete to exhibit which is the more capable parent, and it is not uncommon to see these children carrying other children around, usually their own siblings or the young children of family friends. Because it is valued for girls to learn to perform homemaking tasks, girls are put on display to demonstrate proficiency in cooking and parenting, which creates resentment between peers. Financial struggles are a common problem among families with a stay-at-home mother and many children, so girls find themselves ranked in their peer groups according to whose parents have time to contribute to social activities and by common status symbols such as clothing. These families also share clothing, so children with a lower financial status have to wear the cast-off clothing of the more affluent families.

Very young boys in patriarchal families do not always realize that they are being groomed to take part in a power structure, but they do attempt to exert power over each other as much as public schooled boys do. The big difference here between public schooled children and homeschooled children is that since children tend to be part of a self-regulating system (and the parents are busy) there is not as much supervision and few complaints. As stated above, children either internalize that they exist to serve or exist to control. This results in children who are taught to stick to their ranking and do not usually object to unfairness.

Mental health problems are often not identified and treated in children in these circles, and some of the aspects of patriachal homeschooling life may contribute to the development of mental health disorders. This leaves suffering children even more vulnerable to bullying since children suffering from depression and similar struggles may only appear to be quiet and awkward, whereas in a public school they may have been identified as needing a teacher-mentor or recommended to see a mental health professional. An additional problem unique to church and homeschool groups that prevents children from being protected from bullying is that there is no central figure that children can turn to if their life isn’t working like a teacher or principal. Each parent usually has faith in their own children, and all parents in the church group or homeschool group has faith in their system, and it threatens their choices if the system doesn’t work, so there is simply no room for a bullied child to seek help.

Please share your input regarding the differences between bullying in public schools and patriarchal church and homeschool groups!

The Homeschool Lobby Now Has Public School Children in Its Crosshairs, Too


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?”

For example:

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 3.04.12 PM

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?

The homeschool lobby is coming after Safe2Tell, a program critical to your kids' ability to safely report violence in the public schools.
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.

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.

Depression and Spiritual Abuse: By Kierstyn King

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 4.18.02 PM

Depression and Spiritual Abuse: By Kierstyn King

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on July 17, 2013. This is the second of Kierstyn’s three-part series on mental health. Read Part One here and Part Three here.

Looking back, it’s no wonder that all of the feelings and self loathing that lead to my depression, brought depression. I was taught that I was worthless, that I should never think well of myself, that I needed to be humble, I was never allowed to show any emotion that was not a plastic smile.

Perfection was constantly demanded, and perfection is what I was incapable of.

I am, and was, keenly aware of my failings, of the places I don’t measure up, where I don’t meet parental wishes or requirements — those were held over my head, brought up in arguments to coerce me further into being my family’s slave.

I remember times when my parents would sit there and berate me for hours (under the guise of “concern” and wanting to “help my [spiritual] walk”) and tell me that because I missed doing laundry one day, misheard or misunderstood a demand, that I was a bad sister, a person going down a path of destruction, away from god, if I kept up this “rebellious” attitude.

I remember being bragged about to people (when convenient) only to be later pulled aside in private and told to shape up. I remember dismissal and invisibility.

I was a pawn, a tool, a broom.

I related strongly to cinderella and everyone thought it was cute, but they didn’t realize that I felt as worthless as the dirt she was mopping. That I believed I was as worthless as the dirt she was mopping — to know and be told in actions that I am only loved and approved of when I do things in a certain way, with a certain demeanor regardless of feeling, ill, tired, or stressed. When I was imperfect (as all humans are) I was punished — verbally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, mentally.

I internalized their words of my failures and believed that I was a failure, who didn’t deserve any good.

This was aided by the fact that my family explicitly believed and taught that it was better to live a life of suffering (by god’s hand, of course) than to live a happy life. That god did not want us to be happy (and by unspoken extension, wanted us to be miserable or persecuted).

It’s no wonder that between the bullying because of my imperfections, and the toxic theology of my parents, that I internalized at the most impressionable ages, my total and utter worthlessness and the only way to deal with that, was to hate myself as much as I perceived I needed to be. It’s no wonder that it escalated. It’s no wonder I shut down, became numb, stopped feeling, and felt robotic.

It’s no wonder I was, and at times still am, utterly ashamed of being a woman (someone who is less because of different anatomy)*.

*by people like my parents, the tendency of republicans in positions of power, and people who perpetuate the theology of “equal but different” where differences justify belittling.


To be continued.

Life is Pain and Beauty and Truth: By Miriam

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 4.18.02 PM

Life is Pain and Beauty and Truth: By Miriam

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Miriam” is a pseudonym.


Trigger warning: graphic descriptions of self-injury and suicidal attempts and thoughts.


“who does these things to you ?”

i do. i hate myself. and, i think i have lost the will to live. i’m tired of fighting to survive. i want to give up. i want to die.

the dark battle with the mental illness i still fight began with me.

i don’t remember a lot of my childhood. i have fragments of memories. but i’ve tried to forget the rest, the good along with the bad.

the bullying and the abuse began in junior high.

there were three adults. the first, a leader at a church. the second, an athletics coach. the third, an academics coach. they were all close friends with my parents. i trusted them. i looked up to them. i respected them. and i endured emotional abuse under each for a total of four years.

they taught me that i was worthless. that anything i tried to do was never good enough.

i can’t count the number of students that bullied me. but it came from everywhere: the church youth group, the debate team, the sports team. some were my friends. some were my role models. they were all tormentors in the end. i couldn’t escape being the victim, for four years of my life.

they taught me that i was fat, weak, gay, emo, worthless, stupid, dirty, and deserved to die.

i could only deal with so much. at age 13, i started fighting depression. it grew worse over the next two years.

at age 15, i was sad. i was tired of living. and i wanted more than anything to escape. to be happy again. i became an expert at pretending to be okay. fake smiles were second nature.

i wouldn’t let anyone close enough to let them hurt me. i couldn’t trust anyone. so no one knew. no one noticed how much it hurt.

i was alone.

may 25, 2012. i was home alone. the pain in my mind was unbearable. the heartache of the shame i felt was too heavy. i wanted to die. but i couldn’t kill myself. i wouldn’t let myself. i was too scared.

so i did the first thing that came to mind, to try and relieve the pain. i broke apart a plastic razor i found in the bathroom cabinet and i took the thin blade from it. i pressed it horizontally to my wrist. and i cut.

six small cuts. barely deep enough to break the skin, but still deep enough to bleed, to hurt. it brought relief like a flood in a way that i can’t explain with words.

i’ve tried to retrace my thoughts since then to figure out what ever gave me the idea of cutting myself in the first place. i’ve hit only dead ends.

but i had found an escape.

for the next month, i was okay. i knew i couldn’t cut my wrists because it was still summer and i couldn’t hide my arms easily. so i cut the skin across my thighs. every night. i got a little more courage. the cuts became a little deeper.

it hurt so good. no one noticed.

they taught in church that god is supposed to be the ultimate source of joy and peace.

i felt a deep shame. if god made christians joyful, why was i depressed. if god gave christians peace, why did i have to get relief from a blade.

i knew i was a bad christian. i knew that god must hate me.

they said that god loves the world and all the people in it. but he didn’t stop my bullies and abusers from hurting me.

i knew. god doesn’t love me. i stopped praying. i stopped reading the bible. i didn’t know why i should anymore. it wasn’t helping me get better. if god didn’t love me then i didn’t see why i should love him.

i didn’t love him anymore. i hated him. he made this happen to me. he made me hurt. he gave me life but then he made it so bad that i wanted to die.

i knew i was a bad christian. so i told my parents. they cried a lot. i promised i would get better and i would never cut myself again. i promised i would start loving god again. i said everything would be okay again.

i lied.

i tried hard to keep my promise. it only lasted a month. then i got worse. i broke down and starting cutting again. every night. deeper and deeper.

i wanted to die. maybe i could get enough courage to try and kill myself someday.

four months later. they found out. my parents took me to the doctor. he asked me a lot of questions and then gave me a bottle of pills to take. once a day. he said it would help me to feel better.

so they all pretended everything was okay now. i had pills. i should get better now.

i got worse again. it was winter now. i started cutting my wrists and worked my way all the way up to my shoulders. i could hide them under jackets and long sleeves. it didn’t matter anymore anyway.

the pills weren’t working. the doctor gave me higher doses of pills.

they took me to a psychologist. she seemed nice. she asked lots of questions. i told her about everything. she wanted to see my cuts. i showed her. she wanted me to talk to my parents. she wanted me to show them my cuts. she wanted me to promise to stop cutting.

i didn’t know what to do.

i said yes.

after it was over, i wore short sleeves again. people stared at the scars lining my arms. they asked me what happened. i told them a dog had scratched me.

i lied.

depression swallowed me again. the doctor gave me more pills. it was a different kind this time. he said they would help me not to feel tired.

but i was tired. i was tired of living. and i was sick. really sick.

i wanted to die. i thought i had enough courage to try.

it was 1:13AM. i couldn’t sleep. i didn’t want to live through the next day. i knew i could die now.

i thought about my knives. i got them and cut deeply into my wrist. i wanted to slice through a vein and bleed to death.

i failed. i was left with a mess of sticky blood. but i was too scared to cut deep enough to die.

i knew i would try again soon.

and i did. two weeks later. i tried reaching a vein again. i almost did it.

there was so much blood. my head hurt and i was dizzy. i couldn’t bring myself to keep cutting deeper. i was too weak and too tired.

i failed again.

i tried to keep living. i hoped that things would get better. maybe the pills would work now.

hope bred more misery.

i was brave enough to give it another shot. the knife couldn’t cut deep enough. i tried something different this time.

i found a large bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet. i swallowed a lot of them. i didn’t count how many. i drank a lot of water and tried to fall asleep.

my stomach hurt. i threw up all the pills.

i failed. for the third time. i used to think that the third time’s a charm.

i was too tired to try again. i cried and fell asleep.

a few weeks later, i tried again.

this time i got scared after i swallowed all the pills.

i called the only person i trusted.

he talked to me for an hour or two. i calmed down.

my stomach still hurt. my head was throbbing. i threw up all the pills.

i had failed. i was still alive, against my will.

i felt like god was laughing at me. i couldn’t stand to live but i couldn’t even get dying right. i was in limbo. in hell.

four attempts and still alive. i was sick. i hated myself. i wanted to die but i couldn’t.

the parts in between are a blur. i didn’t attempt again. i kept visiting the psychologist. i kept taking the antidepressants.

and i started talking to him more.

he asked me about my suicide attempts. we talked about my cutting. about my depression. about my self hate. about my shame. about the bullying and the abuse. about the hurt and the loneliness.

somewhere in all of that, i found myself. i realized that, amidst all the bullshit of life, there were some things that were worth living for. worth staying alive for. he was one of them.

i stopped cutting. i found an alternative. it made him really happy.

i started to talk to my psychologist more. it made him happy too.

i talked to him frequently. no one else cared about me.

the darkness started to clear.

i stopped practicing how to smile in the mirror. he made me smile spontaneously and for real.

i have never met a more beautiful person.

and that is why it hurt so much when he walked out of my life. without a clear explanation. without a spoken goodbye. just a phone call with a vague jumble of words put together that i couldn’t quite process through the shock i was feeling.

it hurt like hell.

and life does that. life is pain and beauty and truth. and i would rather have that than comfort and happiness.

i still have major depressive disorder. i still fight off anxiety attacks. suicidal thoughts dwell in my mind every day. i have constant flashbacks of the abuse.

there are things i’d rather not remember. and things still hurt.

but even though it hurt like hell when he abandoned me, losing my best friend taught me that the outstanding pain i felt from that was worth all that he had taught me when he loved me even though i hated myself.

he taught me how to love myself. to embrace brokenness. to turn shame into beauty. to turn lies into truth. to resist the urge to tear through my skin when i wanted to bleed. to appreciate life even when i felt like i would be better off dead.

through pain, i found myself. because of him.

and so, today, as i was thinking of how to write this, i remembered the first time i told him that i hated myself and wanted to die. when i told him about the abuse.

he asked me, “who does these things to you ?”

i didn’t have a clear answer.

i do now.

i know where i’ve been and what i’ve been through. i remember all the hate and the hurt. i remember all the shame and the sadness. i remember all the trauma and the tears.

and i know now that people like me who have mental illnesses never really do recover. after an experience like this, there is no way to reclaim the person i was before. there is no way i can recover who i once was.

and so, i have decided, to recreate myself. i will create a better life and a better world. there will be pain but there will be love. and i will learn to love myself as i live.

one of the hardest things i’ve ever done is share my story.

i’ve only told a few people. it scares me like hell. it’s tangled and it’s terrifying for me to relive some of the memories. but dragging shame out into the light drains it of its power. i share my story, not because it’s easy, but because it’s needed. because it’s real.

and to the reader: i don’t know what you’ve endured, how you’ve hurt, what you’ve done.

but i am glad that you are still alive.

I Was Born With A Severe Immune Disease: Attackfish


I Was Born With A Severe Immune Disease: Attackfish

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was a guest post by Attackfish and was originally published on Patheos on February 3, 2013.

I was “homeschooled” (and I’m not sure I am comfortable calling it that) for absolutely non-ideological reasons, and in fact, there was only ever a brief time during my schooling in which I was not enrolled in public school, at the very end, a few weeks before I took my GED.

I was born with a severe immune disease, and along with making me extremely prone to infection, it also causes me to have seizures, narcolepsy, fainting spells, asthma, and circulatory problems, all of which grow worse when my body is run down. This made just getting to school, a building with two thousand people and all of their pathogens, a real challenge for me, and in my freshman year of high school, my family and I convinced the school district to send a teacher home to teach me, as part of a program usually used for students with less chronic illnesses, like pneumonia. I was enrolled in six periods of classes, and the teachers from those classes would send me assignments through the home hospital teacher, so the academics of my schooling were identical to the ones at the local high school, aside from the fact that I was allowed to pace myself.

Every year, I did attempt to go back to attending school, and every year I lasted a couple of months before admitting that no, I wasn’t magically better this year.

We knew that the home hospital program existed, because my elementary school had begged us to take advantage of a similar system when I was in kindergarten, because they were unable to handle my “strange behavior” which would much later be diagnosed as seizures. My seizures aren’t what most people think of as seizures. During them, I lose all awareness of myself, and run around, glaze-eyed and utterly non responsive for up to several hours, looking for a place to hide, attacking anyone who physically tries to stop me.

They happened at least once a week before I was diagnosed and received treatment, and sometimes, they happened several times a day, almost always at school. Before I was diagnosed, the school and my teachers assumed it was some kind of emotional problem, and the other students were terrified of me. Even once I had a diagnosis, the teacher and principal I had at the time both refused to believe they were anything other than a brat’s tantrums.

As I stopped having them, they encouraged the other students to bully me mercilessly as punishment, and I eventually had to change schools because of the abuse.

Although we moved to another state when I was in middle school, the social anxiety, low self esteem, and poor grasp of social cues the earlier bullying, and falling prey to my first of two stalkers, had left me with, marked me out as easy prey for more bullies and another stalker, right up until I withdrew from high school.

My bisexuality having somehow become common knowledge to the student body didn’t help matters.

For years, my family and I had battled bullies and an administration dead set against helping me end the torment I was enduring. I had switched schools, moved, and done everything I could to blend in and keep my head down.

I was out of options and out of hope.

I remember this tremendous sense of relief at the idea of leaving school, and once I had, I felt truly safe for the first time in years.

For the first time, my illness presented the solution. I really was too sick to go to school. The bullies and my stalkers hadn’t driven me out, I could leave school guilt free. Learning at home for me was an overwhelmingly positive experience, giving me space to breathe, heal, and gather my strength. I had become so used to living in fear that I didn’t realize how afraid I had been until I wasn’t any longer. Later I would be diagnosed with PTSD, most likely from the two stalkers, and it took me years to be able to admit to myself that I wasn’t just weak, or a wimp, or an overdramatic teenage girl, that school for me was bad.

It was ugly, and it was bad

Escaping it was a Good Thing.

And it was medically necessary. Given how vital the chance to lick my wounds and put myself back together was, it’s sometimes hard to remember the real reason I left high school was that I kept ending up in the hospital.

I don’t fit in well in the pro-homeschooling camp, because I don’t think it’s the best thing ever and everybody should do it. In my case, it was a last resort, but most students aren’t as horrifically unlucky as I was. It’s more that I believe in everyone’s right to protect themselves and to leave abuse.

For me, that meant learning at home. I’m grateful for it.