HSLDA: Homeschool Debate

The Home School Legal Defense Association was founded in 1983 by two lawyers who believed in homeschooling and raised their children in a homeschool environment. Their goal was to provide legal advice and defense for other homeschooling families at low cost by spreading the cost of legal fees amongst a large group of families.

The HSLDA strongly believes in parental rights concerning the education of their children and will defend those rights against school districts, state agencies and federal lawmakers. Most homeschool families simply need a letter from an attorney stating their right to homeschool in order for public school districts or state education agencies to respect that right but the HSLDA will cover court and trial costs as well.

As the debate surrounding homeschooling continues, legal battles are escalating over the best way to educate children. Some of the contested cases are a direct result of miscommunication, incorrect paperwork, or confusion about the legality and process of homeschooling. These are the cases that can usually be solved with a letter explaining the homeschool family’s rights or advice to the family about how to get state approval to homeschool.

Many of the major legal problems involving homeschooling stem from custody battles, adopted and foster children, and special needs children who might require additional services. These cases are much trickier and often involve court time, expert witnesses, and children’s advocates. When divorced parents disagree on the best educational environment for the child or grandparents who don’t agree with homeschooling want to intervene and take custody of the children it can get ugly. Legal advisors can step in to mediate the situation and attempt to ensure that the children are taken care of all while following proper protocol. The cases of adopted and especially foster children can be much more complicated as guardians, biological parents, and adoptive parents vie for the right to decide how the child will be educated. It often takes the perspective and expertise of a judge to determine what is in the best interests of the child; legal representation is vital for homeschooling parents facing a court date and the HSLDA stands beside those parents.

Children with special needs require additional care and assistance within the educational environment so it is a tricky prospect to determine if the homeschool classroom and teacher can meet those needs or if highly trained education specialists will be best for the child. Again, the HSLDA will assist the homeschooling family in their defense of the right to educate their child at home, regardless of the opinion of outside specialists.

Critics of the HSLDA maintain that the group will defend any homeschool family, regardless of the efficacy of the educational environment, the welfare of the children, or even any criminal charges brought against the family. Their defense of any and all homeschool families rankle those who believe some families are not prepared or able to effectively homeschool their children. Critics point to cases in which the HSLDA defended families facing criminal charges of neglect and abuse as evidence that the HSLDA does not care about the welfare of the children but simply cares about defending “parental rights” above all else.

Despite criticism, there is no denying that homeschool families need legal advice and defense and the HSLDA provides those services to families in need.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.