Who Are HSLDA’s “Clients”? Not the Children.

One commenter on my post on HSLDA’s defense of child abusers argued that I was misunderstanding how legal ethics works, and that HSLDA was simply defending its clients. As she explained:

They have simply represented their clients’ interests in being able to maintain custody of their children and direct their education.

Ah, but there’s the rub, isn’t it? Who are HSLDA’s clients? Whose interests does HSLDA look out for? The parents. And in the case of the Carrolls, HSLDA defended the right of a couple convicted of child neglect leading to a child’s death to homeschool. Every time, HSLDA is looking out for the parents. In fact, HSLDA is on record saying that anyone should be allowed to homeschool their children, anyone, and lobbying against bills that would require extra monitoring for homeschool parents who had recent substantiated child abuse claims made against them. But then, that is what I said, isn’t it?

It becomes increasingly clear that HSLDA doesn’t care a flying fig about children. All HSLDA cares about is the organization’s beloved idol, “parental rights.”

The reader who argued that HSLDA was just defending its clients and advocating for the right to homeschool only reinforced what I was saying: HSLDA cares about parental rights, and especially about the parental right to homechool, and not about children or their rights. In fact, HSLDA advocates against children’s rights every chance it can get (see their opposition to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for instance). In fact, in explaining his opposition to the Convention, HSLDA’s Christopher Klicka said “if children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children.” HSLDA protects homeschool parents’ interests and homeschool parents’ rights, not homeschooled children’s interests or homeschooled children’s rights.

This fact should be especially troublesome to anyone who was homeschooled, to those who like me grew up on the HSLDA literature our parents received and grew up on the HSLDA talking points our parents recited. HSLDA cared about our parents, but the organization didn’t care about us. Think about that for a moment. HSLDA was there to defend your parents’ right to homeschool, no matter what. HSLDA set about systematically eliminating safeguards that would have ensured that homeschooled children receive an education, and safeguards that would have protected homeschooled children against abuse. HSLDA has opposed even laws that would have simply required that your parents register as a homeschool with the state board of education, so that someone would at least know that you existed. HSLDA set about putting all of the power in the hands of your parents, but during all that time they never gave a second thought about you.

Oh, and at the same time HSLDA was advocating against bills that would have banned punishment resulting in “excessive bruising and welts” and against bills that would have required corporal punishment to be “reasonable.” In other words, when HSLDA moved away from its direct mission to protect parents’ rights to homeschool it set about working to ensure parents’ right to beat their children. And by children, that meant us.

Doesn’t this bother you, at least a little? It certainly bothers me. The simple reality is that HSLDA speaks for the homeschool parents and the homeschool parents alone. HSLDA protects the interests of those parents and those parents only. And so I have to ask. Who speaks for the homeschooled children? Who advocates for their interests? Anyone?

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.