Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Melissa Busekros during a recent government-supervised visit with her family
A German appeals court has not only affirmed a lower court’s decision that ripped a 15-year-old homeschooler from her family and subjected her to a forced stay in a psychiatric hospital because she is homeschooled, but also ordered her parents to be given psychiatric evaluations, an international rights organization says.
Joel Thornton, president of the International Human Rights Group told WND that fears the state will use those court-approved tests to destroy the family of Melissa Busekros are very valid.
“The trouble is this emboldens the state again, only now it’s at a higher level, and the courts still are agreeing with them. This could put Melissa back into the psychiatric system where she could disappear from sight entirely,” he said.
The family’s five other children also are endangered now because of potential court rulings that could be based on any evaluation of the parents, he said.
The appeals court ruling came despite the fact that all three of the lawyers representing Melissa Busekros clearly stated in their request to the court the family had accepted a compromise offered by a lower court for her to return home under government supervision.
“In spite of [that] … the appeals court held that the family refused the court’s initial compromise to let Melissa become an outpatient,” Thornton said.
For the Busekros family, it’s a huge setback.
“[A] fear is that Melissa will be returned to the psychiatric clinic system in Germany and ‘disappear.’ This would leave the family with no way to know where Melissa is or how she is doing. She could become a ward of the state and completely lost to her family,” Thornton said.
Besides the other children in the family, there are further ramifications, too, with the decision raising questions of larger government attacks on homeschoolers in Germany, where that choice of education is illegal because the government wants to stamp out any “parallel” societies utilizing a worldview different from the state’s.
Thornton said the problem is that the original psychiatric evaluation was so vague, anyone could have been determined to need treatment under its conclusions.
“It’s easy to see … if they want to, the government could take more of the children away from this family using the same process. And there is an increased fear among homeschoolers about whether their children are next,” he said.
Even those German families who already have fled to other countries because of Germany’s homeschool ban are moving into hiding because of the possibility they could be returned to face German fines or jail time for homeschooling, Thornton said.
He said the IHRG is working on several fronts, including having several German lawyers evaluate their options for an appeal, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if needed.
“Additionally, we are working with U.S. government officials to bring pressure from the U.S. We are working to set up a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador in Berlin so that the Ambassador can be informed regarding the situation and given a chance to hear the truth directly from Hubert and Gudrun Busekros [Melissa's parents],” Thornton said.
The organization also is calling on Christians worldwide to pray for the family, and people still are being asked to contact the government in Germany regarding the situation.
“We are now looking to set up a wide boycott of German goods in honor of Melissa and her family,” the IHRG said.
The case involves the schoolgirl who had fallen behind in math and Latin, and was being tutored at home. When school officials in Germany, where homeschooling has been illegal since Adolph Hitler decided he wanted to control the educating of all children, discovered that fact, she was expelled. School officials then took her to court, obtaining a court order requiring she be committed to a psychiatric ward because of her “school phobia.”
She later was moved, and then put in a foster home, and although she’s been allowed a brief meeting with her parents, they still are not allowed to know where she is living or under what circumstances.
Drautz cited the German constitution that places the entire school system under the supervision of the government. “Homeschool may be equally effective in terms of test scores,” Drautz wrote. “It is important to keep in mind, however, that school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
Members of the German homeschool community previously have taken their battle for the right to teach their children Christian basics to the Human Rights Court for the European Union, asking for affirmation of the statement in the European Convention on Human Rights that: “In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
However, that court just last year affirmed a German court which had ruled the parental “wish” to have their children grow up without anti-Christian influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.”
The international court said schools represent society and “it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society.”
The Youth Welfare Office in Erlangen, which was integral in launching the case against Melissa, also has been defending its actions.
In a statement that was translated from German to English, the officials said their responsibility is to “intervene when a youth is endangered, physically or psychologically.”
Others, however, weren’t waiting for explanations. One group has posted on the Internet a boycott proposal. “Parents Of The World Call For A Boycott Of All German Goods Until Melissa Busekros Is Returned Without Threat Or Condition To Her Family…” the website announces. It warns against purchasing products from Porsche, Siemens and other German corporations.
The German government’s defense of its “social” teachings came to light during an earlier dispute on which WND reported, when a German family wrote to officials objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The Minister of Education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling…,” said a government letter in response. “You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers… In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
In Melissa’s case, the local Youth Welfare Office arrived at the family home with about 15 uniformed police officers to take her into custody. They had in hand a court order allowing them to take her into custody, “if necessary by force.”
The HSLDA said it was watching about 40 other families with court cases in various stages.
Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “The Youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
American homeschoolers should be concerned, as WND has reported, because the ease with which similar restrictions on free choice could be imposed in the United States.
Michael Farris, cofounder of the HSLDA, has called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the right of parents to educate their children at home, in light of such developments in Europe.