Over on the Badman Review Action Group forum and elsewhere, a number of people are running round like headless chickens as a result of a passing remark by Baroness Deech during the Second Reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill on Monday. She said;
"In Britain, we pride ourselves on the law of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus must extend to our children as well."
Two things strike one about this. Firstly, Baroness Deech is one of the most well known legal minds in the country. When she talks about habeas corpus, we'd best listen carefully and try and work out what she is hinting at. The second point is that most of those expressing opinions about this subject on the various lists display a lamentable ignorance on the topic. The problem is that in this country we associate habeas corpus with prisoners being held illegally and so many parents jumped to the conclusion that she was comparing their little darlings with unfortunate individuals being held captive in dungeons and waiting for the provisions of Magna Charta to free them. What idiots! Here is a typical comment from the Home Education Forums, admittedly not a place where one really expects to see rational opinions;
"Baroness Deech proudly furthered her claims of compassion toward the poor home educated children she is so very worried about, by comparing their right to be seen to the law of 'Habeus Corpus'..."Habeas corpus must extend to our children as well."In short, this means that she views home educated children as 'prisoner's who deserve the right to be to "produce"(d) in order to ascertain their well being & to have the validity of their detention determined by those in authority."
To see the real relevance of habeas corpus in the context of home education, it is necessary to turn to the United States. Although we are pretty sparing in the use of this principle, the Americans are far keener on it. And it is there, in America, that habeas corpus has for well over a century been applied to home education. After the American Civil War, the fourteenth amendment to the constitution was passed in 1868. To this was added the Bill of Rights and Writ of Habeas Corpus, stating that;
"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Although this was primarily aimed at the institution of slavery, a subsequent court case ruled that ;
"Without doubt, it denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children,"
It is upon the fact that habeas corpus in this context gives freedom to a citizen to decide how to bring up his children that it becomes involved in home education. In fact the Fourteenth Amendment and habeas corpus have been cited many times when people have fought in America for the right to educate their own children free from government control. Anybody interested in this should look into the Parental Liberty Doctrine and see its connection with habeas corpus. In the way that Baroness Deech was using it, she was probably also referring to the sort of child custody cases which regularly crop up in the States and where habeas corpus is used by one parent against another. It has also been used, and this is of particular interest, by children against their parents, where the child feels that the parents way of bringing them up is unreasonable!
Habeas corpus is very relevant to home education. Where it has been used in the USA, it has usually been used by parents against the state trying to dictate how they raise their children. In other words, home educators could and have used it. It could also be used by a child who did not want to be kept at home and wished to assert her right to attend school. It has absolutely nothing to do with prisoners in the way that Baroness Deech was speaking of it.