THEN Petition to the U.N.
What follows below is a copy of a petition submitted by THEN to the U.N.
Third Home Education Network
In Australia, the Queensland Government refuses to accept homeschooling in the sense of parents educating their own children largely at the family home. The law only allows this when done by a qualified teacher, fully registered as such in Queensland, and only when complying with the conditions for dispensation from compulsory school attendance, as supervised by the Home Schooling State Review Committee.
Following earlier communication, ref. G/SO 215/51 AUSTL GEN of 15 May and 30 August 1993, THEN has decided to initiate this petition with the United Nations in accordance with the Economic and Social Council resolution 1503 of 27 May 1970, which allows communications to be admitted from a non-governemntal organization or group of people who have direct knowledge or evidence of violations and can show that solutions at the national level would be ineefective. The following description of events should show why there are no sufficient remedies against the Queensland Government's treatment of homeschoolers.
Written complaints with the Minister of Education are typically answered by a staff member, replying that any concerns have been noted and passing on names and addresses of complainants to the Home Schooling State Review Committee - the very body against which the complaint was directed - without respect for the privacy of complainants and for the confidential nature of such communications. There is no official avenue of appeal against this behaviour.
Legal procedures have little relevance in such cases; the Department of Education does not even bother to sue people for homeschooling without dispensation. This means one cannot go into appeal against a possiblke convictionb on the grounds of violations of civil rights. What can happen, though, is that homeschoolers are visited by the Juvenile Aid Bureau, who threaten to take children away from parents, without any charges being laid and without any public access to the respective records. The combined forces of the Education Department, the Juvenile Aid Bureau and the Family Services Department - who place children in custody with foster-families without their parents knowing their whereabouts - can thus collaborate in an evil scheme against which few people dare to object.
When one faces such threats, it is hard to remain calm and, usually, allegations of violent behaviour and suggestions of sexual abuse of children are added, all without any evidence being submitted before a public trial, indeed, without any charges ever being laid. Most parents back off and submit to the wishes of the officers in question, which is often twisted inot 'an admission that the allegations were correct'. This makes it virtually impossible for parents or children to complain against this behaviour, aware as they are of the risk of a forced split-up of their family. For this reason, no particular victim will - at this stage - be named, but THEN is convinced that the threat is real and that this very threat makes it impossible for such families to start legal procedures against such behaviour.
Therefore, THEN requests this communication to be accepted under the provisions of resolution 1503, accepting THEN as the organisation with direct knowledge and evidence regarding the occurence of such situations and accepting that domestic legal remedies are not sufficient, nor in the best interest of the families in question, who are also unable to submit this communication in person.
The following will discuss the articles of the Covenant on civil and political rights which are alleged to be violated by the Queensland Government.
1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Families and in particular children are denied this right when school attendance is made compulsory. Note that article 1.3 demands that the Government not merely respects this right, but is required to actively promote the realization of self-determination.
1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Age discrimination is more and more accepted as just another form of discrimination. Note that the article does not exclude further forms of discrimination, in this case discrimination against minors. Compulsory school attendance for a specirfic age group is just another case of age discrimination. Note that the article (in 2.2. and 2.3) demands active remedies against discrimination.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
This clearly applies to compulsory school attendance. Although the Queensland Government recently banned corporal punishment from State schools, other forms of degrading treatment or punishment are rampant at schools. For some children, the bullying taking place at school is cruel, inhuman and nothing but a form of torture.
1. No one shall be held in slavery
2. No one shall be held in servitude
3. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour
This clearly applies to compulsory school attendance. Children are forced to attend school, at which a master-slave relation exists between teachers and pupils. Children are forced to perform certain activities, at the threat of punishment, and the children are not even paid for this.
1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
2. Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his (sic) arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him (sic).
4. Anyone who is deprived of his (sic) liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court.
Compulsory school attendance is a deprivation of one's liberty. Children who do not attend school can be taken away from their family and placed in custody of foster-families, without any charges even being laid against either the children or their parents.
1. Anyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his (sic) residence.
Compulsory school attendance is a deprivation of one's liberty of movement. Children who do not want to attend school can be taken away from their families and placed in the custody of foster-families, which violated the freedom for such children to choose their residence.
1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his (sic) privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his (sic) honour and reputation.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Family Services Department and Juvenile Aid Bureau officers demand access to people's homes, correspondence, literature, etc, all without even laying charges. The reputation of families can be damaged and, when the allegatiuons turn out to be incorrect, such officers, as well as their superiors, typically refuse to apologize for their behaviour or to compensate the victims.
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which could impair his (sic) freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his (sic) choice.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
Homeschoolers are convinced that they can provide a better education for their children at home than school can provide. Compulsory school attendance denies families this freedom of thought, coerces families to the impairment of their freedom to believe this and has no respect for the liberty of parents to ensure their children with the education that conforms with their own convictions.
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
As mentioned under article 2, compulsory school attendance for a specific age group is simply age discrimination. Evidence of this is that children of a certain age, with an academic level above that of their peers, are still forced to attend school, even though there is no academic reason for this.
This concludes the discussion of violation of articles. Given Australia's accession to the Covenant on civil and political rights, back in 25 December 1991, and given the fact that the Queensland Government has not remedied the situation since that time, THEN hereby submits this petition to the Office of the United Nations, for the U.N.'s consideration and action.
The Third Home Education Network
[ copy of letter published in the THEN newsletter, 29 September 1993 ]