Statement By HARO On WORLD Magazine’s “Homeschool Debate”

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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.

21 comments

  • Fake? Doug Philips himself is a sexual abuser. If the leader is fake, I guess it makes us all fake.

  • Hey guys, remember Michael Gravelle? Let’s refresh. Libby Anne wrote an expose on her blog, entitled “HSLDA: Man Who Kept Children in Cages ‘a Hero'”

    But, guys, don’t think keeping kids in cages is the only thing he did to earn the organization’s praise. Read the article and you’ll find:

    “It turns out that Michael Gravelle had previously sexually abused his biological daughter. ‘Hero’ indeed.”

    However, HSLDA has apparently not retracted one iota of praise for this man, because..

    Well, because….

    Well, I guess we are all still waiting.

  • Another thing that bugs me is HSLDA’s claim that child abuse cases in The Movement are rare. Well, I’d give them that- I guess- if I, like that HSLDA lawyer, could get behind the idea that somebody who sexually abuses a child deserves my PRAISE.

    Until then, HSLDA, you’re going to have to show us some hard statistics.

    But if you DON’T have those (go ahead, prove me wrong) then your claim has all the validity of wishful thinking.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      A staff lawyer “gets behind the idea” of whoever signs his paycheck.

      Note that HSLDA spoke through “Talk to My Attorney”. That should tell you something.

    • Actually, the onus is not on them to show “hard statistics.” That’s not how it works. It is on whoever makes the claim about the prevalence of abuse in the first place.

      • If somebody has made a statistical claim to the effect that abuse is “prevalent” in homeschool communities- all I can say, is that I was previously unaware of that fact.

        Perhaps you’ve been reading here a while and drawn your conclusions. However, your personal convictions and deductions and inferences are NOT the same thing as a statistical claim made by Homeschoolers Anonymous.

        Don’t put words in people’s mouths, if you please.

        At this point in time, I know of ONE statement regarding the “prevalence” (or, alleged lack thereof) of abuse in homeschooling communities.

        That statement is the one made by HSLDA- that such abuse is “rare”.

        And frankly madam, if HSLDA had proven their claim to your satisfaction, I doubt you would’ve found it necessary to tell us they don’t NEED to prove their statement, at ALL.

        But even if it was true- and proven- it does not justify us in prioritizing Homeschooling, The System ahead of homeschooled kids, the people.

        And yes, that is what I think you have done.

  • On a perhaps lesser but still troubling issue, the World article also cites Brian Ray without providing context, when he says this about homeschoolers’ academics: “Educational neglect? Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore., said most studies by dozens of researchers since 1985 show the average homeschooler scoring in the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized tests. (The national school average is the 50th percentile.)”

    This is flat-out false when it’s stated without mentioning that the data for schooled students is based on randomized samples of the full school population, while virtually all studies of homeschoolers include only families who volunteer to submit their kids’ scores. Statistically, not the same thing at all. This isn’t comparing apples to oranges. It’s comparing apples to crochet needles. Homeschoolers may on average perform brilliantly, but it’s impossible to tell, given the research that’s available.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute in Salem, Ore., said most studies by dozens of researchers since 1985 show the average homeschooler scoring in the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized tests. (The national school average is the 50th percentile.)”

      Remember all those Cold War-era statistics from Pravda & TASS?

      Ees NO Poverty in Glorious Soviet Union, Comrade.

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  • HSLDA did publish a clarification about the “fake homeschoolers” quote on their FB page. It looks like there was some misquoting all around by the reporter.

  • whitechocolatelatte

    “comparing apples to crochet needles”

    Bravo — love this.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    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.’”

    “The Party Can Do No Wrong — Ees Party Line!” combined with “No True Scotsman”.

  • I guess, maybe it would be easier for HSLD and others to respond if it didn’t seem like the goal of this is to destroy protections and freedoms for all home schoolers. It would be easier to help if this didn’t look like hurt people lashing out to hurt everyone because they were hurt.

    People are abused by parents, spouses, relatives, teachers, police officers, clergy, friends, babysitters, partners, coaches, mentors, etc. – and they use their relationship to hide it. Do we get the government involved in every instance of those relationships? Do we condemn the people who promote those relationships? Does that help the people who been abused within those relationships? Does it make it easier for others to help them?

    • and the answer is YES! We do get the police involved when spouses, relatives, teachers, police officers, clergy friends, babysitters, partners, coaches, mentors, etc ABUSE a child. YES it does help the victims because their suffering is validated and resources to help them are available.

  • Abuse is abuse no matter where it happens and it isn’t some strange predominant “characteristic” of homeschooling. As a former public school classroom teacher turned homeschool mom (fell into homeschooling due to a learning disability issue but ended up loving it) I can attest to plenty of abuse to go around within myriads of “families” of public school students. It was at times heart wrenching and for me teaching in the elementary school, as it often felt more like ministry than teaching. Now after spending well over a decade in the homeschool community I can also attest to the majority of families being loving families with well adjusted kids. There were some families that likely struggled with legalism and I think legalism is possibly one of the biggest challenges in the home school movement and very often also inadvertently leads to spiritual, psychological, emotional and/or physical abuse. I am an advocate of educational choice and parents lovingly involved in their children’s education, no matter where it occurs and homeschooling is a good fit for many families. Treat abuse as abuse but please take care not to use the universal problem to blanket taint homeschooling.

    • I think our first priority should be to LISTEN to those who’ve experienced the darker side of this system.

      If abuse is as universal as you claim, then for homeschool alumni to talk about abuse in their communities CAN’T taint homeschooling. Because the entire world is just as tainted.. right?

      You know what WOULD taint homeschooling thought?

      Trying to shut up those who’ve been hurt by this system.

      Trying to pretend that THIS is a place where abuse DOESN’T happen- and therefore, there’s no need for homeschooling parents to be accountable to anyone.

      Did you follow the pingback link to Elizabeth Esther’s page? I recommend you peruse the comments section. Here’s a good quote:

      “The homeschool group even made pains to try to make sure no one found out that it was a homeschool dad who had abused the girl!!”

      THAT is what we’re fighting, Rhonda.

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