Duggars to be keynote speakers at 2016 Alberta homeschool convention

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar will be the keynote speakers at the 2016 Home Education Convention in Red Deer, Alta.

Organizers say 19 Kids and Counting stars booked before son's molestation controversy surfaced

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are scheduled to be the keynote speakers at the 2016 Home Education convention in Red Deer, Alta. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Reality TV and tabloid regulars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar plan on visiting Alberta in the spring to give advice to other parents who homeschool their children.

The Duggar family has been clouded in controversy since May, when TLC cancelled their reality TV show, 19 Kids and Counting, after their eldest son admitted he had molested four of his sisters when he was a teenager.

Despite this, the couple are scheduled to be the keynote speakers at the 2016 Alberta Home Education Convention in the spring. 

"We don't look for absolutely perfect speakers because, well — we're human. Someone who is perfect? That's unattainable," said Paul van den Bosch, president of the Alberta Home Education Association.

He said organizers booked the Duggars two years ago, long before the news about Josh Duggar surfaced.

Allegations about Josh Duggar's past were confirmed in June when his parents told Fox News that he had fondled four of his sisters and a family babysitter when he was a teen. (Danny Johnston/The Associated Press)

"We were getting many more positive emails and calls from our members who still wanted to hear the Duggars," said van den Bosch. "[They] basically said, you know, this did happen 10 years ago and it was the son, not the parents, so please don't punish the parents for the sin of the son."

While the Duggars were initially hired to share their unique experience homeschooling many children at once, van den Bosch believes they will also speak openly about childhood sexual abuse.

"This did happen. It was a terrible, tragic thing," he said.

"We hope that the Duggars will speak about what happened, what they learned, what they've done to prevent further incidents like this."

But at least one independent school group has moved to distance itself from the Duggars, saying the keynote speakers are "not representative" of Alberta homeschoolers.

"It is unfortunate that a group of people are tarnished with such a negative brush because of the actions of one family or organization," said Diana Stinn, founder of the Phoenix Foundation, in a statement issued late Thursday.

The homeschool convention is to take place April 8 and 9 in Red Deer, Alta.


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