My first article as president gives me an opportunity to introduce myself to you and share my goals for HSLDAs future. We (mostly my wife, Elizabeth, with a little help from her husband) have had the great privilege of home schooling three of our four children, beginning in 1981 and concluding with our youngest in 1996. (Yes, moms, it will come to an end one day.)
When we started, we were na´ve in many ways. We lived in California and assumed that home schooling was legal. Wouldnt a lawyer research the law first, you ask? But it seemed obvious to me that parents should have the right to choose the manner of education for their children.
Soon after we began, however, I started getting phone calls from frightened parents who were being threatened by school officials with jail or removal of their children if their children were not returned to public school. Because of my background as a prosecutor and then a criminal defense attorneyI wasnt a criminal, my clients werethis did not sound plausible. These types of threats were usually reserved for serious criminals. At that time in California, most first-time robbers did not go to jail.
Well, I was wrong. The very first family I represented was threatened with removal of their children when they pulled them out of the public school because their first grader was told she could not pray silently over her lunch in the cafeteria. The school district asserted that the parents had to be state certified teachers. Teacher qualification was the biggest battle to overcome early on in defending families. In California, some officials high up in the education establishment still assert that home school parents must be certified.
With this case pending and families in similar situations calling regularly, I attended a home school conference where I met Mike Farris in 1982. Mike was having similar experiences representing home schooling families in Washington State. It was at that meeting that Mike told me about his idea to start a home school legal defense association. When he asked me what I thought of the idea, my initial reaction was, I wish I had thought of it myself! My wife, Elizabeth, and I agreed to be on the founding Board of Directors along with Mike and Vickie.
In March of 1983, Home School Legal Defense Association officially opened its doors. Our primary purpose as spelled out in our Articles of Incorporation reads as follows:
The purpose for which this corporation...is formed [is] to preserve the fundamental, God-given constitutional rights of parents and others legally responsible for children, to responsibly control the education of their children. To this end the corporation will serve as advocates for home education freedom, parental rights, and religious freedom in the courtrooms, before governmental officials, and in the public arena.
Today, though we have won many battles, the war continues. Current challenges come in the form of child protective services accusations of child neglect, and a concerted effort by education bureaucrats to pass laws increasing our accountability to government. Some of our active court cases include home schoolers prosecuted for alleged violation of truancy laws and families with special needs children who have experienced unlawful discrimination.
We now have seven lawyers who are also home schooling fathers and one who is a home school graduate, devoted full time to protecting and advancing the rights of home schooling families. I view HSLDA as a partnership with our 65,000 member families working together to safeguard our constitutional liberties. This special relationship makes it an extreme honor to be chosen by the Board of Directors to succeed Mike Farris as President of HSLDA.
I want to thank Mike Farris for providing the path to follow as he so ably served as president for 18 years. It gives me great comfort to know that Mike will continue to serve in the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors and General Counsel, with special emphasis on leading our litigation team and federal legislative efforts. Our working relationship and friendship has been a personal blessing and inspiration to me. The home schooling community owes a debt of gratitude to Mike Farris for his vision, leadership, and tireless advocacy for home schooling freedoms.
My goal for HSLDA is to see that we continue to focus on our original purpose with the same passion and zeal as we have in the past. As our partners, I invite you to inform us if you believe we are straying from that purpose. Our staff is dedicated to demonstrating a servants heart as it addresses your needs and concerns in the future, just as it has in the past. If we fail, I encourage you to inform me of this as well.
As we begin our journey together, I am truly excited to see what the Lord will do. Home schooling continues to grow at a rate of about 15 percent a year. HSLDA stands poised to assist our fellow home schoolers here and around the world as they encounter opposition and persecution. We will maintain our vigilance in statehouses across the nation and in Congress as we vigorously uphold parental freedoms in the courts and legislatures of our land.
It is by Gods grace that the home school movement has been so blessed. Its advancement can only be attributed to divine intervention. We will likely never fully realize the protection the Lord has provided to home school families. Your membership and continued support help keep HSLDA strong. Let us stand united in prayer as we advance our God-given freedoms to train up a new generation for His glory and Americas future hope.