A proposal in the British Parliament calling for mandatory criminal-background checks for parents who want to homeschool their children is the most “overbearing law in the English-speaking world,” charges a U.S. advocacy group.
“This bill is breathtaking in its scope and reflects a perverse level of suspicion towards parents who home-educate their children,” said Michael Donnelly, a staff attorney and director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The group is the world’s premier advocate for homeschooling and has been active in cases in Europe as well as the U.S.
Donnelly said the bill “places total discretion in the hands of local education officials to determine whether or not they will ‘register’ a home-education program and would require criminal-background checks for parents before they could begin to homeschool their own children.”
Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, which promotes stable family life and children’s welfare, told HSLDA the background checks wouldn’t make any sense.
“If it is deemed unsafe for children to be with their parents during normal school hours, it is equally unsafe for them to be with their parents in the evenings, at weekends and during the school holidays,” he said.
“To impose a system of routine monitoring home-educating families would represent a breach of their right to a private and family life and constitute a waste of public resources,” he continued. “Furthermore, the proposal to grant the local authority a statutory right of access to the homes of home-educated children is in effect reversing the presumption of innocence in British law and treats parents with suspicion until they have proven themselves innocent.”
The HSLDA said the British proposal, which already has had its first reading in Parliament, stems from the Badman Report, issued last summer.
WND reported the June 11 report from Graham Badman, a former managing director of Children, Families and Education in Kent, was accepted by the British Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
HSLDA said at the time the report advocated the “extensive” regulation of homeschooling across the United Kingdom.
It keyed on the United Nations concept that children should be granted rights to make decisions for themselves about education, religion and their lives.
That’s the belief expressed in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document the HSLDA has been warning about for a number of years. It has been adopted in the U.K. and might be on its way toward approval in the United States, lacking mainly the approval of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.
The document, however, grants dozens of “rights” to children, sometimes running roughshod over conflicting parental rights, the organization said.
For example, under the international document parents no longer would be allowed to administer reasonable spankings to their children, children would be granted the authority by the state to choose their own religion, the “best interest of the child” would govern all decisions and give the government the authority to override any parental decision, children would have a legally enforceable “right to leisure” and parents would be required to have their children attend state-sponsored sex-education courses.
In the U.S., ParentalRights.org is pursuing a campaign to amend the Constitution to include a specific endorsement of parental rights.
The new legislation in the U.K., according to Wells, would “require local education authorities to solicit the views of a child regarding home education, to visit them and interview them alone.”
The plan would allow government officials simply to terminate the registration of parents who want to homeschool if they do not “cooperate.”
Donnelly said his organization will work with British homeschoolers.
“We are standing with European homeschoolers threatened by authorities who are either trying to ‘stamp out homeschooling’ – as in Germany – or to restrict it to the point of extinction, as in Britain,” he said. “We are grateful to our members and friends who support our work and our ability to invest in fighting for freedom for parents under fire.”
Paul Farris, chief of the HSLDA in Canada, said the U.K. proposal is based on faulty assumptions, including that there is “systematic monitoring” of homeschoolers around the globe.
“The Badman Report and this bill shows real ignorance of homeschooling and will not facilitate success in home education but will rather interfere with home education,” he told HSLDA.
Such proposals should be of concern to U.S. parents, too, according to Michael Farris, chief of the Parental Rights organization.
“Any nation that severely restricts the ability of parents to choose alternative forms of education, including home education, in the name of creating national unity, cannot call itself a free nation. Freedom necessarily requires the individual to have the liberty to think differently and believe differently than programs instituted by the current rulers of any nation. Educational freedom is the cornerstone for all freedom of thought and conscience,” he said.
Farris cited other European nations, such as Germany and Sweden, where officials have cracked down on homeschooling, and warned Britain now is following the same “dangerous path.”
In Germany, the government prosecutes parents who homeschool their children with fines and jail terms. In fact, a German family has applied for political asylum in the U.S. because of the harsh treatment German authorities dispensed, and a hearing is scheduled in Memphis, Tenn., in January.
If the U.K. law is adopted, there could be serious ramifications, according to Mike Smith, chief of the HSLDA.
“The experience in Germany suggests that [British homeschoolers] will lose custody of their children, be fined and potentially be jailed,” he said. “We hope and pray that this legislation will not become law because it will turn a nation that was once a free country into one which has become a shadow of its former self.”