A long standing member of the Trust contacted us yesterday to ask for assistance. The family use ACE to homeschool their children and, so far, it works well for them.
Several years ago, they applied to register their child(ren) with their provincial education department for home education. They ONLY made this application, because ACE requires proof of such an application before accepting orders.
(ACE has always done this as long as I know. They seem less interested in complying with the law than with pleasing whichever education officials happen to be in power at the moment, operating on the apparent assumption that whatever any education official says is "the law". ACE seems unconcerned about whether the demands of officials are legal at all, and about whether such demands are in the best interests of the children and families who are their clients. Some of their representatives have called this "Christian wisdom".
About twenty years ago their then owner, the late Dr Trevor Yoko and his son - the present owner if I understand correctly - even gave me a stern dressing-down for promoting compliance with the law instead of promoting their views of "Christian wisdom".)
The family never received any response from the department to their application, but they had the proof that they had applied, and were accepted as clients by ACE on the strength of that.
Last month, after many years, the family were contacted by the department and asked to submit a new application because the old one was "out of date". The family complied with the request.
Yesterday, the mother received a telephone call informing her that departmental officials want to inspect their home education at their home.
The mother contacted he Trust immediately, and we recommended as recorded in the letter below.
We also informed the mother that the Trust, having been asked to act on their behalf, will:
- In accordance the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) and the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). obtain from the department a detailed list of all the information that the officials intend to gather by entering the family home.
- Obtain from the department proof that the officials are duly authorised to ask for each of the items of information that they want to obtain. Any items of information that the family is not legally required to provide will be removed from the list after consultation with the officials.
- Obtain from the department proof that each of the remaining items on the list (i.e., all information that the officials are legally empowered to require) cannot be obtained by means that are less intrusive of the family's right to privacy.
- Any information for which such proof does not exist, will be removed form the list, likewise discussing it with the officials.
Our experience is that there will be no items remaining on the list. At best, if the officials insist, the family may need to post some records or "evidence of work done" to the department. At worst, the parents may need to meet the officials at the offices of the department or at a neutral venue, producing such records and/or "evidence".
See letter to Mrs X below (edited to protect privacy).
Kind regards, Leendert
Dear Mrs X,
Our telephone conversation refers.
As we discussed, we recommend the following action:
- Wait until the department calls again (if ever).
- If they do, firstly identify the caller by name, post held and the office of the department in which this post is held.
- Ask the official to send their request for an appointment in writing (by post, fax or preferably email)
ask them to make the appointment through your legal defence fund at 012 330 1337.
- Call the Trust at the emergency number: [082...members only] and inform us of the events.
- Should any officials arrive at your residence unannounced, you would act completely in accordance with the law if you DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO ENTER YOUR HOME - unless you want them to out of your own free will (i.e. not under intimidation) or unless they have a court order empowering them to enter your home (a most unlikely event).
Your children have a constitutional AND statutory right to the privacy of their home. (All children have a right to privacy. That means that the law protects them from interference with their way of life, their good name, their families and their homes.)
You have a legal duty to protect your children's right to privacy.
You also have a right to privacy of your own, and are protected form interference with you life, your family and your home.
Unlike in the case of your childrens' right to privacy, you have no legal duty to protect your own. You are free to relinquish your own rights to any extent you choose. You are NOT free to relinquish your children's rights. You may only do so if you are very sure that it is in their best interests to do so, and then you may only relinquish their rights to the extent that it is in the children's best interests to do so.
Your children's right to privacy, and yours, may be restricted by law under some circumstances, but the constitution emphasises, and so do many statutes (e.g. the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act) as well as common law, that the onus always lies with the responsible government official(s) to prove that:
a. Every aspect of the infringement of your children's right to privacy is reasonable and justified. They cannot just decide to interfere in your children's lives and enter their home without very good reasons, which they must provide beforehand.
b. That they cannot achieve their legal, reasonable and just objectives (if they have them) by less intrusive means.
That means that, when officials gather such (and only such) information as they need to perform their authorised tasks, they must do so without interfering with you and your children more than is reasonable and necessary.
Leendert van Oostrum
This article is written by Leendert van Oostrum from the Pestalozzi Trust and is published on www.tuisskolers.org with permission.