[Recently Homeschoolers Anonymous published an article about a sexual/physical abuse cover up that involved “big” names in the homeschooling community: HSLDA, Heidi St. John, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Great Homeschool Conventions, and more. (To read the entire article, which I’ll just summarize, click here).
Basically, a son of the family that owns The Old Schoolhouse Magazine molested his younger cousin seven years ago. This family also physically abused a niece that they took in to live with them. The family of the child who was abused has been trying for seven years to reconcile with the family of the abuser while at the same time protecting their children and others that the abuser has access to through church, traveling, and other means. This process involved one-on-one confrontation, asking others to come and support them in their confrontation (Matthew 18), reaching out to mutual friends, and contacting the Home School Legal Defense Association and individually reaching out to people high in the HSLDA system such as Mike Smith and people high in the GHC such as Heidi St. John. Recently, Eric Nouvak contacted Ryan Stollar of Homeschooler’s Anonymous and Hannah Ettinger with some of the details in this story. They did a very thorough and well-researched report on the situation, which as of yet has not been addressed.]
The whole situation makes me sick to my stomach. It is hard to write about, just like it’s hard to hear about.
Homeschooling can be an amazing educational choice. Unfortunately for those who want to continue to teach their children at home, the actions of HSLDA, Heidi St. John and others who are supposed to be “protecting” homeschoolers are jeopardizing that. If these well-respected organizations and individuals whose primary mission is to protect homeschoolers are “too busy” to deal with the “distraction” of insidious and widespread child abuse and child sexual abuse, children will continue to be victimized and eventually more and more regulation and supervision will be forced on homeschoolers. It is not ok to hear about something like this and ignore it! It is not ok to discriminate against victims. It is not ok to cover up abuse.
And I cannot emphasize this enough: when child abuse is strongly suspected or certainly known about, it is NOT enough to use Matthew 18 or self-policing. In these cases, the situation MUST BE REPORTED to the pertinent authorities. Children and families who have been victimized this way need professional help, not just a Biblical/nouthetic counselor or a pastor. They may need this support, yes, but that is for people who are trained in how to deal with things like this to decide. Ironically, HSLDA wrote about this on their website in response to an earlier outrage over abuse that they ignored. They added a page that talked about how to report abuse and neglect which stated, “Although HSLDA has expressed reservations about methods of abuse reporting and investigation in the current child welfare system, we strongly believe that when there is reliable evidence that a child is being abused or neglected, the government has a duty to intervene.”
Excuse me, folks! What did HSLDA, through its leaders WHO PUT OUT THIS STATEMENT ON ABUSE AND NEGLECT, do? They ignored child abuse, blatantly. Abuse that had multiple victims who spoke up. They refused to involve the government–or even try a more “Biblical” method of intervention. HSLDA abandoned the defenseless, the helpless, the children.
But does this really surprise me? No. Sadly, no. It infuriates me, but it is what I would expect from an organization from HSLDA that pushes for the rights of parents to the exclusion of the rights of children. Children’s rights are a bad word for them. They promote the parental rights amendment, which would effectively give parents unquestionable authority over their children with no regard to what might be best for their children. If a parent does not believe in something (vaccinations, socialization, evolution, women getting higher education), they are not obligated to give it to their children (or to give them the opportunity). HSLDA has long fear-mongered among homeschoolers regarding social services, public schools, and anything to do with the government in regards to accountability for homeschoolers. Whether or not they intended to do so, they are creating a haven for patriarchy, abuse, and neglect in every area. This cover up is basically the only logical outworking of the system that they have created.
I want to live in a country where I have the freedom to homeschool my hypothetical children if I ever wanted to. I want to live in a country that protects and respects children and guarantees them basic rights of personhood. I don’t think these two desires are exclusive. However, if leaders in the homeschooling community continue to refuse to protect children, someone else will step in. Like it or not, they are the reason that “outsiders” need to keep better tabs on homeschoolers. Apparently, self-policing isn’t going to be enough (surprise). For our children and for ourselves, we must speak up, or evil will triumph.