Friday, May 10, 2013

HSLDA: We Would Rather Stand Behind Abusers Than Their Victims

If you are not familiar with what HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association) is, you need to know who they are, and how they stand in the way of child abuse investigations, and condone abuse.

Libby Anne of the Patheos blog Love Joy Feminism recently had a great post series on the disgusting tactics that this group uses, supposedly in order to protect homeschooling families (read all her posts related to them here).

Here is some of the more disturbing ways of how they end up supporting child abusers in the process, in their campaign to supposedly protect the homeschooling rights of member families:

If HSLDA had their way, anonymous tips to social services agencies would become history:

In a report to Congress, HSLDA lawyer Christopher Klicka stated that he wanted federal law to be amended to prohibit anonymous tips to state social services agencies:
Anonymous Tips: As a condition of receiving federal funds, CAPTA should be amended to mandate states to require all reporters of child abuse to give their names, addresses and phone numbers. This will curtail false reporting and end harassment using anonymous tips. CAPTA should be amended by adding subsection 42 U.S.C. 5106a(b)(2)(A)(xiv): provisions and procedures to assure that no reports shall be investigated unless the person making such a report provides such person’s name, address and telephone number and that the information is independently verified.
This would all but end reporting of abuse cases to social services. Think about it, if you knew that a neighbor was beating their children, how likely would you be to report it if not only did you have to state name, address, and your phone number to the social services worker, but that the neighbor's lawyer could insist that this information be provided to them (and therefore their client as well). Wouldn't you likely be afraid for your life in a situation like this?

HSLDA opposes mandatory reporting laws:

HSLDA believes that laws requiring adults to report evidence of abuse to social services, local police or prosecutors will create a 'police state", here's what they had to say about a proposed federal law that would have made state mandatory reporting laws a nationwide norm:
S. 1879 will require every single person to be a mandatory reporter of suspected child abuse. States will lose certain federal funds if they do not create mandatory reporter laws that encompass every single person in the state. This will create a massive “police state” system that forces people to report on family members and neighbors even if they only suspect child abuse, or they will face a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in jail.
HSLDA has some shocking standards of what is and isn't "abuse"

In an opinion piece written in response to a proposed law that would have strengthened child protection standards, HSLDA president J Micheal Smith had this to say:

Just when things seemed to be settling down in California, on April 3, Assembly Bill 2943 was introduced by assembly member Sally Lieber. This bill would have the practical effect of making a noninjurious spanking with an object such as a ruler, folded newspaper or small paddle illegal in California. The bill is identical to Assembly Bill 755, which failed to pass the assembly last year. 
Why does HSLDA think that beatings with objects, even paddles is acceptable?
This bill amends Penal Code section 273(a), which makes it a crime to cause unjustifiable pain, harm or injury to any minor child. If the bill passes, spanking with an object such as a stick, rod or switch would be lumped in with throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child. 
HSLDA thinks that putting beatings with sticks, rods and switches on the same level as burning, cutting or throwing a young child, and outlawing such behavior is a problem....
Striking a child with a fist. Striking a child under 3 years of age on the face or head. Vigorously shaking of a child under 3 years of age. Interfering with a child’s breathing. Brandishing a deadly weapon upon a child. These are all factors that a jury could use to conclude that a defendant in a criminal case has inflicted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering.What the bill would do is to equate discipline administered via an implement with the above conduct, which obviously is abusive behavior toward a child. 
Why does HSLDA see any difference between these two sets of behaviors?

HSLDA has not only legally defended abusers, but has called them "heroes", and said they were being "persecuted":

Libby Anne has presented several cases in which abusive fundamentalist parents were not only legally represented by HSLDA (that I can understand, even the most disgusting and reprehensible people need legal representation), but HSLDA called some of the "heroes" and claimed that the cases against them were due to religious persecution:
In 2005, homeschool parents Michael and Sharon Gravelle were accused of child abuse and their eleven adopted children were removed from their home. The Akron Beacon Journal reported HSLDA’s response: 
Scott Somerville, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association in Virginia, said he talked with Michael Gravelle before the story broke in the media, and he believes this is a family trying to help special children. 
When a social worker visited the house last week, there was no resistance to an inspection, said Somerville, whose organization represents home-schooling families on legal matters.“They had nothing to hide,” Somerville said. “He told me why they adopted these children and told me the problems they were trying to solve.“I think he is a hero.” 
In other words, when faced with accusations of child abuse against Gary Gravelle, a homschooling father, HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville declared Gravelle “a hero.” Why? Presumably because of he had adopted special needs children. But what actually happened in the Gravelle home? Let’s take a look: 
The Gravelles’ children told [Lt. Randy] Sommers of punishments including ”spankings with a board, name calling and being held under water,” Sommers said.One boy said he had ”his face shoved against a bathroom wall until his nose bled,” Sommers testified. 
The sleeping arrangements for some of the children were homemade enclosures made with wood and chicken wire that had alarms on the doors. County authorities call the enclosures ”cages,” while the Gravelles say they were enclosed beds used to protect the children.The children would soil their beds rather than open the door and go to the bathroom because they did not want to trigger the alarm, they also told the investigator. Another boy told the detective he was forced to write ”in long hand” a book out of the Bible before he was allowed out of his enclosed bed, Sommers testified. 
When asked whether he believed the children’s accounts, Sommers said he did because many of the stories were repeated by more than one child. 
“I think he is a hero,” HSLDA attorney Scott Somerville said of a man who kept his adopted children in cages and punished them by holding their heads under water in the toilet. Oh, and guess what? It turns out that Michael Gravelle had previously sexually abused his biological daughter. “Hero” indeed.
In 2010, a HSLDA affiliated lawyer claimed that a New Jersey family was being "persecuted for their religious views" because their children were taken from them by the state:

They've got all my children,” John Jackson lamented. “My children are being held hostage. They've been kidnapped.“They’re not accountable to anyone,” Jackson told WND. “They told us they do not lose cases, and they will substantiate the abuse. This has not been an objective investigation in the first place. They want to adopt the children out, because they get money for adopting children out.” 
A DYFS spokesman refused to comment on the case, citing “strict confidentiality laws.”This is a good, Christian homeschooled family. They’re being persecuted,” said the Jacksons’ lawyer, Grace T. Meyer, a New Jersey attorney affiliated with the Home School Legal Defense Association. “They’re homeschooled and they don’t fit the pattern for most DYFS cases. Most cases involve parents who are on drugs or in jail … in these cases you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
At the time, it was not publicly know why this family had lost their children, DYFS refused to say due to concerns for the privacy of the children, but as the lawyer for the family, certainly, Mrs. Meyer would have been informed why by the state. Finally, the details become known, and were published by New York City area media:
A U.S. Army major and his wife allegedly punished their adopted children with such “unimaginable cruelty” that it might not even fly in “Full Metal Jacket.” Maj. John E. Jackson, 37, and Carolyn Jackson, 35, force-fed their three adopted children hot sauce and red pepper flakes, broke their bones, refused them medical attention and deprived them of water, said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. 
At least one child was so thirsty that he attempted to drink from a toilet bowl but the Jacksons ordered one of their three biological children to stand guard over the bathroom to stop this, court documents said. “The crimes alleged should not happen to any child, anywhere, and it is deeply disturbing that they would happen on a military installation,” Fishman said. The abuse occurred while the family lived at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County, N.J., from 2005 until 2010, The Star-Ledger reported. One of the adopted children died in May 2008.
So, religious persecution, huh?

It's time to expose HSLDA, everyone needs to know the facts. One of my favorite blogs, a great site which has given a voice to many who were harmed by abuse in homeschooling families, Homeschoolers Anonymous, has started a campaign they are calling #HSLDAMustAct, to raise awareness, and to publicly challenge HSLDA on their Facebook page, and on Twitter (@HSLDA).

Join them, and help spread the word, it's about time that we shine the spotlight on HSLDA, and turn up the pressure on them. It's hard for me to believe that my family was once members of this organization, and even though my mother had less than honorable standards as to what would be considered acceptable punishment, I doubt even she would have stood for this, had she known then what HSLDA really was. I remember receiving their magazine, Court Report as a child and teen (you can read online here if you can stomach it).

The magazine is loaded with propaganda depicting themselves as the guardians of religious and homeschooling liberty, fighting against corrupt state social services agencies who are opposed to both homeschooling and Christianity, and due to such bias, will build cases on little or no evidence. They made state social services the enemy, and this kind of fear mongering is how they build up and keep their membership rolls. Little did I know that it was HSLDA I should have been afraid of instead....


  1. Thank you for this information. It needs to be widely known.

    1. I'm saddened to find out that HSLDA is like this, but it's necessary to tell people.

  2. I like your title because its true. They care more about standing behind abusers than those who have been abused.

    1. It really shocked me when Libby Anne showed all the evidence of what HSLDA was doing. My parents were members when I was a kid, and I don't even they would have approved of this.

  3. This is a fantastic post! I had no idea that HSLDA was so far out there. I figured they were typical-religious-right crazy, not defending putting kids in cages crazy.

    Btw, some of the block quotes are rendering as light gray on white, which is almost unreadable without highlighting the text.

    1. I had a different color scheme then, that's why the colors are off now.


No spam, proselytizing, or personal attacks, such comments will never see the light of day around here.

Disagreeing with me is fine (I encourage it), but have some decency when writing your comment