19 Jan 2009

Home schooling 'could be a cover for child abuse and sexual exploitation'

The Daily Mail - UK January 20, 2009

by Daniel Bates

Parents who educate their children at home could be using it to cover up abuse, neglect and forced marriage, the Children's Minister has claimed.

Baroness Delyth Morgan said home schooling could be masking a range of evils including sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

Her controversial comments immediately provoked fury from home schooling groups who branded them 'offensive'.

Baroness Morgan remark came as she ordered a review of how the estimated 55,000 children who are taught at home or have dropped out from school are treated.

It is in response to local authorities' and children's charities' anxiety about their ability to properly support and monitor those who are home schooled.

But yesterday's launch appears to have been completely overshadowed by Baroness Morgan's comments.

She said: 'Parents are able, quite rightly, to choose whether they want to educate children at home, and a very small number do. I'm sure, the vast majority do a good job.

'However, there are concerns that some children are not receiving the education they need.

'And in some extreme cases, home education could be used as a cover for abuse. We cannot allow this to happen and are committed to doing all we can to help ensure children are safe, wherever they are educated.'

The review will investigate how home education is supported and monitored and how concerns about the welfare and education of a child are dealt with.

Among its explicit aims is to 'consider what evidence there is to support claims that home education could be used as a 'cover' for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude'.

Last night Ann Newstead, spokesman for the charity Education Otherwise, a charity for parents who home school their children, said claims that children were safer in the hands of the state than parents was 'offensive' and 'not born out by an increasing number of families in the UK'.

Annette Taberner, member of EO's policy group said 'no other community would be expected to suffer the prejudice and discrimination which our community has to endure. Our community will be infuriated by these latest statements.'

Currently the responsibility for the home schooling of a child rests solely with the parents and no authority has the power to inspect the quality of the learning.

Councils are not obliged to monitor it and parents don't have to answer any questions about what they are teaching.

Parents do not even have to register their child as home educated, but they must notify the school if they intend to withdraw their child from formal education in order to teach them at home. The school will then tell the local authority.

Among the options for the Elective Home Education Review are tighter monitoring although ministers stressed there are no plans to change the rights of parents to teach their children at home.

The EHER is being led by Graham Badman, former director of children's services at Kent county council.

Mr Badman said: 'Legislation affords every parent the right to choose to educate their child at home but with those rights go responsibilities, not least being to secure a suitable education.

'By the same token, local authorities are charged with ensuring that all children are safe, well and receiving an education that is both enjoyable and allows for the expression of all aptitudes and abilities.'

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  1. Good lord, you people have a problem with homeschooling too? Talk about paranoid!

  2. It is not a question of paranoia, Vicky. Your comment is so typical of critics who want to post here anonymously: an ad hominem attack intended to belittle instead of offering a rational argument. It shows me that you are the one, in fact, with a mental health problem.

    The evidence is very clear (and my personal experience confirms) that home schooling is used by many fundamentalists/evangelicals/cults/new religious movements/destructive religious groups etc, to isolate and indoctrinate children with religious dogma in violation of their inherent human rights.

  3. School in B.C. polygamous community closes, students now home-schooled

    By James Keller, The Canadian Press Calgary Herald November 4, 2012

    VANCOUVER - A school in Bountiful, B.C., with links to jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has abruptly closed its doors, with most of its students now relying on home-schooling in a community that has long been accused of using classrooms to indoctrinate children rather than educate them.

    Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School shut down without explanation in September, the province's Education Ministry confirms, and nearly all of its former students are being home-schooled. The school, which received provincial funding for some grade levels, had an enrolment of 265 students last year.

    Bountiful is a small commune of about 1,000 people in southwestern B.C., not far from the U.S. border. Residents follow a fundamentalist form of Mormonism, which, unlike the mainstream Mormon church, condones polygamy as a tenant of the faith.

    Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School was one of two schools in the community, which itself is split into two divided factions.

    The school was controlled by the faction that remains connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, and its jailed leader Warren Jeffs.

    The FLDS side of the community is considered more extreme and isolated than the faction led by Winston Blackmore, who split with the church a decade ago.

    Blackmore's school, Mormon Hills School, remains open with an enrolment this year of 178 students, according to the Education Ministry. Unlike Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School, Mormon Hills receives the highest level of government funding available to an independent school and is certified to grant high school diplomas.

    Education in the community came under scrutiny during a high-profile trial in late 2010 and early 2011 that examined Canada's polygamy law. The trial heard evidence of declining enrolment at both schools, particularly at higher grade levels. Statistics presented in court indicated few students finished Grade 12 and even fewer received high school diplomas.

    The trial also heard testimony from former Bountiful residents, who recalled being taught religion for several hours each day at the FLDS-run school, where boys were told to treat girls as "dangerous snakes."

    When reached by phone, the school's former principal, Guy Oler, declined to comment on the closure or how it might affect children in his community.

    The Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School Society, which ran the school, informed the provincial government in September that it wouldn't be open this year, said Education Ministry spokesman Scott Sutherland.

    He said the society didn't provide an explanation, nor was it required to do so. The ministry and the local school district immediately began meeting with Bountiful school administrators and parents to ensure they knew they were required to register the children elsewhere.

    "It came as a bit of a surprise to the ministry," Sutherland said in an interview.

    Sutherland said most of the students are now enrolled in a local home-schooling program known as Homelinks, which connects parents and children with certified teachers who work with families to craft an educational program for each student. Professional teachers evaluate students' work, but most of the instruction still occurs at home.

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    Several dozen children are technically registered at local schools, but nearly all of them are home-schooled. In those cases, it is entirely up to parents to teach and grade their children. They have access to resources, such as curriculum documents and computers, from the school, but are not required to use them.

    Nine former Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School students are enrolled in a separate government-run online learning program, Sutherland said.

    In all cases, students can obtain a high school diploma — known as a Dogwood diploma — if they take and pass provincial exams, but that is not required.

    When asked whether the ministry is concerned about the quality of education the Bountiful students will receive at home, Sutherland didn't directly address the issue.

    "Every complaint that has ever arisen regarding the schools (in Bountiful) has been followed up on," he said.

    "The ministry is satisfied that these kids will continue to receive an education and they are registered in education programs."

    The local school district's superintendent, Jeff Jones, said his staff are still working with parents as they transition into the district's various home-schooling options. There have been several community meetings, including one that Jones attended personally.

    "Right now, we're experiencing opportunities to develop relationships, and I think that's worked very well," Jones said in an interview.

    "The families, they seem to be very committed to working with our professionals. I would say, overall, I'm very pleased with the way the community is working with us."

    The Homelinks program includes weekly activities designed to bring its home-schooled students together as a community. Jones said initially the Bountiful students will participate in their own activities, separate from other Homelinks students, but he hopes they will eventually be integrated.

    Jones also preferred to steer clear of the controversy that hangs over Bountiful.

    "In education, we have to come to learn the context of any community we're working with. In our school district, and we have a variety of different communities," he said.

    "We welcome all students. Our mandate is to educate the students who come to us to be educated."

    Bountiful has been the subject of numerous police investigation since the early 1990s amid allegations of polygamy, sexual abuse and human trafficking.

    In 2009, community leaders Winston Blackmore and James Oler were each charged with one count of practising polygamy. Those charges were later thrown out after a judge ruled the B.C. government violated the men's rights.

    The collapse of that prosecution prompted the government to launch a constitutional reference case, which ended last year with a judge upholding the anti-polygamy law as constitutional.

    The RCMP currently have yet another investigation into Bountiful. A special prosecutor has been appointed to review any evidence the RCMP collects and consider charges that could include human trafficking, child exploitation and polygamy.


  5. Bountifuls dysfunction symbolized by school's closure

    With no classes to attend, children likely to be further indoctrinated into fundamentalist group led by imprisoned pedophile Warren Jeffs

    By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun November 6, 2012

    It's a symptom of how disconnected the B.C. government is from the reality of the intensely secretive community of Bountiful that an Education Ministry spokesman described the closure of Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School as "abrupt" and "a surprise."

    In early September, after hearing reports it was closed and computers from the government-funded, independent school given away, I called the ministry to ask about the closure.

    The same ministry spokesman assured me that the school would open in mid-September as it always does.

    Spokesman Scott Sutherland, however, did say that after a spring inspection at the school, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders had decided to no longer take the $1.1 million the school is eligible for as a fully accredited independent school.

    For taxpayers, it may seem a bargain that they no longer pay for a school that has failed to produce more than a handful of high school graduates in its 27-year history.

    It may even seem a bonus that there's an extra $1 million to spend on schools where children aren't constantly told that obedience is paramount, that girls are "dangerous snakes" (a reference to the biblical Eve) and that girls' highest, best and virtually only use is to become mothers and wives.

    But the school's closure is only a bargain in the narrowest of economic terms.

    As long as the school received funding, it was subject to oversight that included routine inspections and external evaluations.

    Over the years, educational insufficiencies have been identified, among them a Grade 11 science test that asked such ridiculous questions as: How many goldfish are in the aquarium? And: Give suggestions for next year's school motto.

    Others included gender bias. Only a few years ago, boys' required work-experience program offered diverse activities from dairy work to mechanics, while girls' choices were limited to helping with children, cooking and sewing.

    The majority of the 265 students from last year (and others who should have started kindergarten) will now be home-schooled by parents who themselves have little more than basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills.

    Even the tenuous control from the Education Ministry is gone, since home-schooling parents are not required to use the provincial curriculum or any other resources that are available to them.

    The school's closure virtually condemns these children to an education that will likely consist of little beyond the bizarre, racist and sexist doctrines and end-of-world revelations emanating from the FLDS prophet and convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life term in a Texas jail.

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    Over the past year, Jeffs's edicts have included banning even married couples from having sexual relations, outlawing all but the most essential physical contact between parents and children, forbidding play and banishing toys, games and sports.

    With no school to attend, children are left with little else to do but work or be further indoctrinated through endless replaying of Jeffs's taped sermons.

    They are even more vulnerable than before to manipulation by the church's extremist leaders. Additionally, with even the fleeting hope of a basic education eroded, there are now close to 300 children whose futures are further hobbled should they choose to leave or if they're forced to leave as an increasing number of men and boys have been since January.

    Among the banished are six fathers whose 40 children and seven wives have been "reassigned" to men deemed more obedient to Jeffs's diktats. Those six fathers will be back in Provincial Court in Creston on Wednesday fighting to gain access to their children.

    Ripping families apart. Reassigning women and children as if they have no more worth than furniture. Denying children their basic right to a safe and secure home, education and choices about everything from what they want to be to who they want to marry.

    These are all part of the longstanding dysfunction that has set apart this entire community since its founding in 1946. It afflicts both the 500 or so followers of Jeffs and the 500 or so others who stuck with former FLDS bishop Winston Blackmore, who himself has impregnated nine under-age girls.

    Despite frequent complaints over the years about the crimes committed within Bountiful, from polygamy to sexual exploitation to human trafficking and misdemeanours such as poor education inflicted on the religious loyalists, the community has flourished.

    Little more than a year ago, following a lengthy hearing into the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy law, the chief justice of B.C.'s Supreme Court determined polygamy is at the root of the evil in Bountiful. He determined that its inherent harms override all of the other guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Yet, the government has done nothing about polygamy. And it remains as deaf and dumb to all of its evils as it has been for nearly 70 years.