Open letter to Minister James Merlino

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Open letter to Minister James Merlino

Regarding the proposed changes to homeschooling in the Victoria Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017:

Dear Minister,

As I sit down to write, I find it hard to begin despite having pages of questions about the proposed changes and how they will affect so many Victorian families. I could ask specific questions about the draft regulations and the Regulatory Impact Statement, for the problems they present are plentiful, but I keep coming back to one question:

Why?

Why are you doing this, when you know it will hurt children?

Minister, I believe that you genuinely care for Victorian children. I don’t believe you and your key staff are sitting in an office plotting how to treat children with disabilities any worse than DET already has. But your department has created countless victims of the most devastating kind: children. It must stop, and it must stop now.

Nobody wants children to suffer and that is why I am struggling to comprehend what disconnect is clearly occurring within your department, when you create new regulations that will hurt our kids and continue to treat children with special needs with so little regard.

Because these regulations WILL hurt children, Minister. And in some tragic situations, they will kill children.

I know, Minister, it sounds a bit over the top and dramatic. Except it is rooted in truth and there are far too many examples that serve as proof. You are aware of this, as are members of the public who have almost come to expect one more child suicide because of school bullying– how utterly tragic that these news stories are no longer a surprise for so many– but I will ask you these questions in the hope that you take the time to reflect on how you would answer them, if presented with the opportunity to look these children in the eye.

  • Will you meet with bullied children, who are struggling to cope at school, and explain to them why you will keep them in school for 28 days or longer while their homeschooling application is being processed? Don’t forget Minister, that the reason for the homeschooling application may be because the situation is extremely serious, perhaps life threatening.
  • Will you meet with homeschooled children who were removed from school due to sexual assault and tell them why you not only failed to protect them, but will actively encourage the opportunities for other vulnerable children in school to continue being abused?
  • Will you meet with the desperate parents who are watching their children die a little more each day because of school trauma, and explain to them why they must keep sending their child back to be abused for an additional 28 days, while they run around researching curriculum and prepare a learning plan to satisfy bureaucrats in a department that is known to be anti-homeschooling?
  • Will you tell these parents that they will face daily truancy fines for protecting their children by removing them regardless?
  • Will you elaborate on your assurance that children may be removed before the 28 days “if there is a reasonable excuse”? How do you imagine that will protect children where schools don’t admit abuse is taking place? The government is proud of its Child Safe Standards; please don’t forget that sometimes, children need to be removed from your school system in order to be safe.
  • Will you meet with Victorian parents, particularly those who have children with special needs, and explain why you believe it is best to have their children confined to a harmful school environment instead of being in a safe, supportive environment such as the home? Remember Minister, children cannot learn when stressed.
  • Will you meet the parents of children in early primary school who are dealing with the knowledge their children were not only assaulted, but that DET completely failed to protect their child?
  • Will you meet with children who have autism, and explain why they will continue to be unsupported and not have educational needs met, because teachers are untrained, under resourced and unsupported?
  • Will you take my children on a tour of VRQA and explain to them why this department is allowed to give out false and misleading information about homeschooling, such as telling people that homeschooled children are unemployable and can’t get in to university? Will you explain to my children why home-education renders them unemployable? I can’t think of one reason.
  • Will you attend a forum with homeschooling families and tell the children why the VRQA will be given unlimited power over them, and children struggling in school, by having the authority to reject applications and perform reviews?
  • Will you meet with homeschooled children, particularly those with mental health trauma due to school or those with special needs, and tell them why VRQA staff, without sufficient background in home education or home education for children with mental health concerns or autism, will be the ones deciding their fate?
  • Will you explain to terrified children, who were withdrawn from school due to bullying, abuse or assault, why you feel you need to potentially place them back in school in the future, even though school created the trauma? Even though your department was responsible?
  • Will you meet with the parents of children with disabilities, who were removed from school as a last resort, and explain to them why you have not learned from the terrible experiences of such families, and will continue to fail children with special needs?
  • Will you meet with the families of children who were removed from school, unable to read or write, and explain why their children were passed over?
  • Will you meet with compassionate school staff and explain to them that even if they agree a child is being failed, or hurt, in their school, they must still have the child in their school for 28 days until a homeschooling application is granted? Will you ask them about the emotional impact they will experience, seeing a hurt child denied the opportunity to be removed from the harmful school environment?
  • Will you meet my children and explain why you not only wrote them off, but will continue to write off countless more?

Minister, I invite you to meet with the homeschooling community. I am confident you will be interested in the many reasons why families come to homeschooling. We will have more than enough examples for you of children being sexually assaulted, abused or bullied at school (by both teachers and students), children with mental health concerns due to school, children falling through the cracks at school, children with special needs being failed repeatedly by the DET framework and more than a few examples of little girls with disabilities being assaulted by staff.

Minister, regardless of how we have come to homeschooling, we are Victorian parents who love our children and we do not make the decision to homeschool on a whim. We take our responsibility seriously. Some parents have come to homeschooling as a last resort, because schools completely failed their children, particularly those with disability. You are aware of this.

And so I implore you Minister, please consider the impact your regulations will have on children, particularly those with special needs who will need to be homeschooled.

We do not accept these draft regulations.

We will fight to protect our children and we will fight to ensure that as parents, we are free to exercise our duty of care to our children and remove them from school if school is hurting, or failing them.

Yours sincerely,

A Victorian Mother.

1 Comment

  1. Sarah Nicholson says:

    James Merlino has lied in answering at least one of these questions. In a radio interview with ABC Central Victoria, Fiona (the ABC reporter) questioned him about the truancy fines and he denied this would happen. She then pressed him by quoting from the official document. He continued to deny this truancy fine would be given. I do not think that Mr James Merlino has actually got a complete grasp of what his department have done. I hope he reads this open letter. Well done to the Victorian Mother who wrote it.

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