J. Michael Smith, Esq.
Michael P. Farris, Esq.
UN Treaty Jeopardizes Homeschool Freedom in Britain
Ever since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and opened to nations across the world for ratification in 1989, HSLDA has been deeply concerned about the implications of this treaty for U.S. homeschoolers, if the U.S. were to ratify the treaty.
We have consistently warned that this treaty could be the vehicle opponents of home education could use to effectively ban or severely regulate homeschooling. On February 16, 1995, when Secretary of State Madeline Albright signed the UNCRC, the United States took a major step along the path to ratification which would make the UNCRC, as stated in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
For the UNCRC to be ratified it must gain a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate. If this happens then the UNCRC will automatically supersede all state laws and U.S. judges will be obligated to follow the provisions of the treaty. Currently, family and education laws are state-based; however, ratification of the UNCRC would transfer the jurisdiction for making family and education law to the U.S. Congress. Congress would, in turn, be obligated to follow the UN mandates contained in the CRC.
While HSLDA has been sounding the alarm about this treaty for years, proponents of the UNCRC maintain that our concerns are invalid.
One such claim relating to homeschooling is from the Children’s Rights Campaign website, a group of 300 organizations arguing that we have nothing to fear from the UNCRC.
They say: “There is no language in the CRC that dictates the manner in which parents are to raise and instruct their children. Ratification of the Convention would not prevent parents from homeschooling their children.”
Sadly, HSLDA’s position has been proven to be correct. Contrary to what proponents like the Children’s Rights Campaign claim, UNCRC will be used to significantly restrict the freedom to homeschool in England.
On June 11, 2009 a report on home education in England by Graham Badman, a former Managing Director of Children, Families and Education in the County of Kent, was accepted in full by the British Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The report makes the case that homeschooling should be extensively regulated in England.
Aside from registering with the state and mandating reports by homeschoolers, the Badman report makes references to balancing the rights of parents with the rights of children. This idea is expressed in the UNCRC.
As Mr. Badman says:
I am not persuaded that under the current regulatory regime that there is a correct balance between the rights of parents and the rights of the child either to an appropriate education or to be safe from harm.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) gives children and young people over forty substantive rights which include the right to express their views freely, the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matters that affect them and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Article 12 makes clear the responsibility of signatories to give children a voice:
“Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
Yet under the current legislation and guidance, local authorities have no right of access to the child to determine or ascertain such views.
Mr. Badman has a solution for the lack of access of the state to homeschooled children in order to fulfill this provision of the UNCRC.
He proposed the following:
- That designated local authority officers should:
- have the right of access to the home
- have the right to speak with each child alone
- That a requirement is placed upon local authorities to secure the monitoring of the effectiveness of elective home education.
Mr. Badman’s rationale for placing the state in charge of determining the effectiveness of a home education (i.e. deciding which curriculum is used) is based on Article 29 of the UNCRC. He asserts:
Such is the demand and complexity of 21st Century society and employment that further thought should be given to what constitutes an appropriate curriculum within the context of elective home education. Such a curriculum must be sufficiently broad and balanced and relevant to enable young people to make suitable choices about their life and likely future employment. Article 29 of the UNCRC states that:
1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
- The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
- The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
- The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
- The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
- The development of respect for the natural environment.
In short, the Badman report recommends that the state should have the authority to choose the curriculum for homeschoolers and he used Britain’s treaty obligations under the UNCRC to justify this intrusion.
Remember, the Badman report has already been accepted by the British government. It is now only a question of time before the legislation is introduced and a vote occurs in the British Parliament. Not surprisingly, the estimated 80,000 British homeschooling families are outraged at the Badman report. The Badman report is a stark reminder of how government officials in an English-speaking democracy have interpreted the UNCRC. It’s clear that the right to homeschool in America will be negatively impacted if the U.S. Senate ever ratifies the UNCRC.
Ultimately, the answer to completely defeating the UNCRC is to amend the U.S. Constitution. This is the purpose of the Parental Rights Amendment being advanced by HSLDA and ParentalRights.org. The PRA would uphold the current U.S. legal framework which only allows the state to intervene where there is credible evidence of abuse or neglect. Otherwise parents are free to raise their children, which includes the right to home educate. Amending the Constitution will permanently protect the right of parents and homeschoolers. It's a right we cannot surrender to any U.S. government present or future and certainly a right we must not surrender to the United Nations.
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