Seven years ago, Jenefer Igarashi‘s son was molested. The crime was committed by the son of the publishers of a Christian homeschooling magazine that employed Igarashi. (The boys happened to be cousins as well.) And after several years of silence, both she and her son are finally talking about what happened.
Homeschoolers Anonymous gives us the background:
Paul and Gena Suarez are the publishers of The Old Schoolhouse (TOS), a Christian homeschool magazine and self-described “global homeschooling company.” TOS has been called “one of the largest homeschooling magazines in America, and indeed, the world.” TOS’s vision is “to continue to lift up the Lord in every endeavor, every action, and every word spoken or written,” and that “as homeschooling grows, so TOS grows, and concurrently, that as TOS grows, more families will be introduced to home education through our many and varied resources.”
TOS was not a magazine my family received regularly, but I was certainly familiar with it as a big player in the homeschooling culture. TOS was deeply enmeshed with all the major names in Christian homeschooling, particularly those who skewed more conservative.
Igarashi, a blogger and mother of six, was a familiar name to me as I was involved in several blogging circles that also included her daughter. Her involvement in TOS was extensive, until her son was molested.
Again, according to Homeschoolers Anonymous:
For 6 years Igarashi worked for TOS in a number of capacities, including (in 2002) as the Senior Editor of TOS and (in 2006) as the Vice President of Operations. She’s been in the thick of the Christian Homeschool Movement, writing enthusiastically in 2006 about her opportunities for TOS to interview both HSLDA’s Chris Klicka and Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips…
Igarashi has vaguely referred to her abrupt departure from the magazine and made references to strong emotions regarding child predators. But the dots are finally connected for us in her latest blog post, in which she explains that she’s finally opening up about her son’s abuse at his request:
But then he told me he wanted to speak plainly. He told me that he was angry — really angry — that his older cousin had forced him to live with such disgusting memories. He also told me that he hated the idea of being known as the kid who had ________ happen to him. He said he was fearful of having a tainted reputation and was nervous about being kept out of certain circles of friends who might look at him weird if they knew. I sat quietly and just listened to him as he spoke. And then what he said surprised me. He said, “I think that being concerned about how I’m viewed is selfish, though. I don’t want my reputation to be more important to me than knowing we might be able to help prevent others from having to live through what I have to deal with” This kid is 13, he’ll be 14 next week…
This is important, not just because it’s yet another group of homeschooling Christian leaders who have protected abusers (who deserve to be exposed for their flagrant abuse of power). This quote from Igarashi gets to the heart of the issue:
Our issue is with leaders who use their positions of power to enforce a ‘zero accountability’ policy for child sex offenders and then punish people who disagree with their (extreme) view.
This is why homeschool reform is so important. And this is why Christian homeschool leaders are so strongly opposing homeschool alumni speaking out against abuses of power in the Christian homeschool community.
The whole system (based on wildly inflated ideas of what “religious freedom” means) is designed to have a zero tolerance policy for accountability over parents. Power is addicting: they will not surrender authority over their children leaving home or disowning them, and they will not surrender authority to protect other children from being abused. Instead, they’ll just pretend like nothing happened.
Think about that.