Should a child be unsafe for 28 days?

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Should a child be unsafe for 28 days?

By Bekah Carman

One of the main reasons parents choose to home educate is as a last resort. They have their children in school and everything is fine – but then something happens, maybe it’s just one time or maybe it’s continual. But something happens that makes the school environment unsafe in some way.

Perhaps it is the apparently simple verbal abuse, constant harassment and bullying by other students. Or by teachers. Perhaps it’s worse, maybe there is physical abuse, other students physically tormenting or harming the child. Sometimes this is done by teachers too. Perhaps it is sexual assault, once or ongoing, either way it’s too many times. Maybe it’s something that seems quite simple, neglect, but is more harmful than you would assume – things like children not being allowed to use the bathroom and then being faced with the humiliation of wetting themselves in the classroom.

Do you think this doesn’t happen? I envy your naivety.

My children have never attended school, they have never faced these issues, I home educate as a first choice not a last resort. But for many home educators these things have happened to their children. Their kids have been harassed or neglected to the point of suicide desires and attempts, physically and sexually abused, often ending with the same desire. A recent survey by HEN revealed 60% of Victorian home educators have removed children from school; home education is a last resort for many.

Home education may one day be a last resort for you.

The chances of it happening are not huge, but they do exist. If your child was physically or sexually assaulted, would you want to leave them in that school? Would you want to send your child to any school at all?

What would you do to protect your child, how far would you go, what would you be willing to give up? For them, to keep them safe.

Just before Christmas, just as schools closed, the Victorian government released draft education regulations affecting home education and a parent’s right to ensure their child’s safety.

The bulk of the proposed regulations would be of little interest to most parents. But there is one thing that can and will affect a great number of parents in Victoria. Regulation 72: Application for registration: This regulation specifies that if a child is registered for home education during the school year, they must remain in school while the application is assessed by an Authority that has 28 days to do so.

Why does this matter?

If your child is in mental, emotional, physical and/or sexual danger in school, the law would say you MUST leave them in that dangerous environment until the Authority says you can remove them. And they may not say you can in the end anyway.

Currently the parent may remove their child from school at any time, without permission from anyone as long as they register for home education at the same time.

You have the right to control your child’s education and keep them safe. Soon you will not. Soon you will require permission from the government to remove your child from danger, and you might not get that permission.

The Minister claims that children could be removed if there was a ‘reasonable excuse’, but guess who judges whether your excuse is reasonable? And where a school denies abuse is taking place, do you think the abuse will be accepted as a ‘reasonable excuse’?

To apply for home education and remove your child from danger you will first be required to research home education, and draw up an individual learning plan for the year covering the 8 Key Learning Areas, you will also need to find and list the resources you will use and then submit your plan and resources list with your application for home education.

That’s actually a fair bit of work to do before you even apply. How long do you think it will take to draw up a plan for an entire year of school work? Days, weeks, months? And you haven’t even applied yet. So, spend a lot of time drawing up a year’s plan, send it off with the application form and wait 28 days. And then, there is no guarantee that the reply will be in the affirmative. Maybe, your plan is not good enough and they require further information. You may just be asked to give more information and then have to wait again. The time the authority has to reply a second time is not specified. Maybe another 28 days? Maybe more? Will they ask for even more information again? There is no detail as to how this will happen.

All we know is that if your child is in danger, they must remain at school and in danger for at least 28 days, plus the time you take to research and write up your plan and possibly have to supply more information and wait again.

Home education: you might not understand it when it is a lifestyle choice. But I think most parents can understand home education as last resort, an emergency choice to protect their children.

But if you ever need to use this last resort, the Victorian government wants to make it harder for you to keep your child safe.

You think the rules for home education in Victoria don’t affect you? Maybe they won’t, I truly hope they don’t. But there is a good chance they will. And the way they might affect you is not just unfair and difficult, it is dangerous. For your child. Is that what you want?

If you wish to retain the right that every parent should have, to remove your child from a dangerous situation without needing someone else’s prior permission, you should consider writing a submission asking that this new regulation be abandoned.

Parents should have the perpetual automatic right to protect their children. Don’t let anyone take this right from us, from you.

Submissions can be sent in to by 5pm 28 February.

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