Home School Legal Defense Association Accused of Protecting Child Abusers

Libby Anne, a blogger for the atheist channel of Patheos, has accused the Home School Legal Defense Association of protecting child abusers. HSLDA has responded that it does not condone nor defend child abuse and has only been concerned with legal issues regarding homeschooling.

Some child abusers, Anne says, use homeschooling as a way to cover up their crimes. By keeping their kids out of schools, they are able to avoid monitoring by other adults who might detect a problem.

HSLDA was founded to defend the right of parents to homeschool their children. It provides legal help to homeschoolers and advocates for homeschooling rights at the federal and state level.

Anne claims this advocacy has gone so far as to protect some of those child abusers who have used homeschooling to avoid detection of their crimes. She discusses three examples in which, she argues, HSLDA has acted to protect child abusers: the Gravelles, the Carrolls, and the Jacksons.

The Gravelles were found to have kept 11 adopted special-needs children in homemade cages and used abusive punishment methods, including physical abuse and holding their children's heads in toilet water. They were convicted in 2006. Anne notes a 2005 newspaper article reported that Scott Somerville, an HSLDA attorney, spoke with the father, Michael Gravelle. He believed there was nothing wrong in the home, and called Michael Gravelle a "hero."

In the second example, the Carrolls were convicted in 1992 of child neglect for denying medical treatment to Hannah, their adopted six-year-old special needs daughter, after she suffered burns caused by bleach. Three years later, they wanted to homeschool their children but a judge ruled they must send their children to public school as part of the increased monitoring that was part of their sentence. HSLDA defended their right to homeschool in the case.

In the third example, John and Carolyn Jackson were charged with abusing their three foster children. They are accused of forcing them to eat red pepper and physically abusing them to the point that they broke some of their bones. Thursday, they pled not guilty in the case. The Jacksons are not represented by HSLDA, but by an HSLDA-affiliated attorney who called them a "good, Christian homeschooled family."

HSLDA posted a response to Anne on its Facebook page saying it "does not and will not ever condone nor defend child abuse."

"HSLDA receives hundreds of calls each year from parents who are under investigation by CPS, often based on false, anonymous, trivial, or malicious reports," the statement continues. "The vast majority of these are determined by CPS or a court to be unfounded and are dismissed. Because of this, we do not immediately assume that everyone who is the subject of an investigation is guilty of child abuse or neglect."

Regarding the specific examples mentioned by Anne, HSLDA wrote, "we did not represent two of the families and in the third [the Carrolls] we were involved on the question of homeschooling alone after the other issues were resolved by the court."

The statement concludes by saying: "To the extent that any statements we may have made could be misunderstood to suggest that we condone the abusive actions of some we repudiate them wholeheartedly and unequivocally."

Anne has written another post responding to HSLDA's response, which can be found here.

The Christian Post contacted HSLDA for further information but did not hear back by the time of publication.

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