August 22, 2014 Statement by the Board of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out:
We are grateful to both WORLD Magazine and Daniel James Devine for the opportunity to be interviewed for their recent “Homeschool debate” article. Abuse and neglect in homeschooling are serious and pressing issues that need to be addressed for both the sake of children and alumni as well as the health of the homeschooling movement in general. There has been a severe lack of coverage of abuse and neglect in homeschooling by Christian news sources. We commend WORLD and Mr. Devine for shedding some light on these situations.
We do, however, grieve the statements made by HSLDA and their attorneys in the article. Mr. Devine wrote that, “Both Smith and Darren Jones, a staff attorney at [HSLDA], agreed that abuse and neglect cases do exist within some homeschooling families, but argue their number is small. HSLDA staffers call them ‘fake homeschoolers.’” This rhetoric is unacceptable. By calling these homeschoolers “fake,” it allows HSLDA to distance themselves from these uncomfortable situations rather than confront the issue. Additionally, HSLDA’s choice to refer to both current victims and now-survivors of abuse and neglect as “fake homeschoolers” erases the heartbreaking, lived experiences of many children and alumni. Such erasure should not be welcome in the homeschooling movement, and we know that HSLDA is capable of a better response.
Mr. Devine also wrote that, “Jones, the HSLDA attorney, said he recognizes some in the Homeschoolers Anonymous community didn’t have a great experience growing up. ‘I feel terrible for them.’” While we appreciate the offer of sympathy, we must point out that not once has Mr. Jones or anyone at HSLDA even attempted to reach out to any of us on the HARO board or the Homeschoolers Anonymous community at large. Quite the opposite, in fact. Until very recently, HSLDA has either ignored us or blocked us from their social media pages. We would welcome a dialogue with HSLDA, but at this point the ball is firmly in their court.
For example, it has been over a year since we launched our #HSLDAMustAct campaign, asking HSLDA to launch a public awareness campaign to educate their members about recognizing and addressing child abuse. HSLDA has never responded to that campaign nor have they reached out to us concerning it. We are glad that HSLDA has added a page to their website with basic info about child abuse. Yet this action still falls far short of the type of public awareness and community education campaign for which we advocate.
As another example, HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville is still on record referring to a convicted child abuser, Michael Gravelle, as a “hero.” While we want to believe that HSLDA does not condone Mr. Gravelle’s behavior, the lack of a public retraction and apology is glaringly absent and deeply concerning to HARO. Many homeschooling parents and families look to HSLDA for guidance. HSLDA’s silence on this issue is frankly alarming.
Until HSLDA begins to take these issues more seriously, apologizes for Mr. Somerville’s comment and referring to abused and neglected homeschool children and alumni as “fake homeschoolers,” and makes a good-faith effort to reach out to HARO, all we can do is continue to hope. We hope for and welcome a conversation about how we can together make homeschooling better for future generations.
We also hope that more Christians news sources will follow WORLD Magazine’s lead in addressing child abuse and neglect within homeschooling communities. These problems are more than “a few bad apples spoiling the bushel,” and it is paramount that homeschooling communities, religious organizations, and individual Christians invested in the health and safety of all children rise to the occasion and do the hard work of protecting those in harm’s way.
Finally, it has come to our attention that Heather Doney, whose story was featured prominently in WORLD’s article, believes she was misquoted by Mr. Devine. We respectfully call on WORLD and Mr. Devine to do their due diligence in re-examining the accuracy of her quotations and responding to Ms. Doney’s concerns in a prompt manner.