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The Harvard “Summit” - A Continuation of Erosion of Parental Rights - Same Sheep, Different Clothing. 

By: Attorney Deborah G. Stevenson
March 29, 2020


So, by now, word has spread that there will be a “summit” at Harvard soon to discuss ways to regulate homeschooling.  Let’s take a look at some of the people behind this so-called “summit”.


The two people who are organizing it are James Dwyer, a law professor at the College of William and Mary, and Elizabeth Bartholet, a law professor at Harvard. Both advocate that the State has the right to determine not only the authority of parents, but, more importantly, who should be designated as parents.  This is truly a disturbing philosophy.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the papers Dwyer has written, and the titles of some  symposia in which he has participated. The same theme prevails - parents should not have authority over their own children.


In one law journal article entitled, “A Child-Centered Approach to Parentage Law”, Dwyer says two prior conferences were “devoted to the topic of state control over children’s family relationships”, and “the state’s selection of a child’s legal family [and] who will be legally guaranteed an opportunity for a social relationship with a child”.  


Then there are the articles he wrote.  Here are some of Dwyer’s quotes:


“The most serious incursions on religious liberty in America today are being inflicted on children by parents and private school operators through power the State has given them.”

Also, in his article entitled, ”Religious Schooling and Homeschooling Before and After Hobby Lobby”, Dwyer discusses that sort of decision as being “irrelevant to addressing the incursions on liberty experienced by children subject to religious and home schooling”.


Then there is the other promoter of the “summit”, Elizabeth Bartholet.  She has written several books and articles.  One of her books is entitled, “Nobody’s Children”.  In the Penguin Random House description of that book, it says that she “challenges the accepted orthodoxy that treats children as belonging to their kinship and their racial groups and that locks them into inadequate biological and foster homes”, and she “question[s] why family preservation ideology still reigns supreme”.  Apparently, in that book she also advocates that every family with a young child should be required to undergo mandatory and frequent home visits by government officials.


Bartholet also has been a speaker at other events. At Duke Law School in 2017, she was a member of a panel that explored “the evolution of the concept of the right to a family, from the Declaration of Human Rights, through the Convention on the Rights of Children, to the European Human Rights Convention” and considered “the nexus between adoption and a child’s right to a family.”  She also sat on a panel discussing the “interrelationship between the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, the Intercountry Adoption Act, and proposed changes to the statutory and regulatory structure”. In another recent article, she also recommended a ban on homeschooling, or a requirement for parents to seek government permission to homeschool.


This gives you just a taste of who is in charge of setting up this latest Harvard“summit” on the regulation of homeschooling.


Unfortunately, there are those who have been advocating for elimination of parental rights, or at least the strict regulation of them, for many years.  This is nothing new.  The philosophy has morphed through time, however.  There was the effort to have a global doctrine extolling the virtues of “human rights” over national or constitutional rights, and uplifting the rights of the child over the rights of the parent.  Hence, the adoption by many countries, except the United States, of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Here, the Constitution, and individual rights, still prevail. When the global philosophy failed here, then we saw it morph into an effort to change laws, and even the Constitution, on the federal level.  Hence, the emergence of federal agencies purporting to protect the rights of children, and the advocacy of a change to the Constitution by way of the Parental Rights Amendment, which purports to “protect” the rights of parents by giving authority to the federal government that it never had before over the rights of parents and children. That having been stalled, now we are seeing the philosophy morph, again, this time into an effort to indoctrinate lawmakers at the State level into changing State laws to accomplish the goal of weakening, or eliminating parental rights. This seems to be the focus of the Harvard “summit”.


Make no mistake, the people above, the others who will be speaking at the “summit”, and their followers who are advocating for the elimination or destruction of parental rights, are zealous, radical, and committed to this philosophy.  They do not intend to give up. Clearly, they will adapt and continue with their agenda.  


Keep in mind, however, that there are many who will take a full frontal attack on the rights of parents, such as those mentioned above, and there are those who will take a softer, more compromising approach.  They are both equally dangerous to freedom.


Note that one of the speakers at the Harvard “summit”, Samantha Field, will be addressing the Home School Legal Defense Association, (HSLDA), in a talk entitled, “Meet HSLDA, the Most Powerful Religious-Right Lobby You’ve Never Heard Of”.  While HSLDA has helped many parents through the years, an objective look at their work necessarily includes the fact that HSLDA also has advocated for causes that reduce or infringe on the rights of parents.  HSLDA’s founder, Michael Farris, for example, initiated the effort to adopt the Parental Rights Amendment, which would allow the federal government to regulate homeschooling.  Although retired from HSLDA, Farris also has written articles for HSLDA, including one that says,


“I think it is now evident that…parental rights should not be absolute…In light of the fact that parental rights cannot and should not be considered an absolute right, the question remains:  Have we chosen the correct method of limitation on this right? We certainly do not want to return to the language of the Massachusetts Bill of Rights of 1780: “Parents should have the right to make all decisions for their children provided that they are ‘demeaning themselves peaceably and [are] good subjects of the commonwealth’.”   (  


Perhaps this is why, throughout the years, HSLDA has resolved problems for parents through compromise, as well as through the adoption of state and federal regulations, albeit regulations that may not be as blatant or as draconian as the regulations being proposed by the promoters and speakers at the Harvard “summit”.


Whether you personally favor, or disfavor, the individuals or organizations cited above, the facts are out there for anyone to see as to how their advocacy has, and will, infringe on the rights of parents. Don’t take my word for it. Conduct your own research, and objective analysis of those facts, and come to your own conclusions. Let’s at least have a discussion about what is happening.


If you agree that, whether or not the attack is blatant or cryptic, it must not succeed, then join us in our longstanding effort to retain our inalienable right to freedom to educate our own children in the manner we choose to do so, without government interference.


We will win this, and every other battle as well.


                             Permission is granted to share this article in its entirety.

Attorney Stevenson is the founder of National Home Education Legal Defense, LLC. (NHELD)


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