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 ↑
Government officials determined to stamp out “parallel societies” have in the past ordered police to take children from their homes to school and have placed a teenager involuntarily in psychiatric care for being homeschooled. Now they are fining a German husband and wife $6,300 for refusing to require their children to attend public schools.
The Home School Legal Defense Association has written a letter to Mrs. Senatorin Renate Jurgens-Pieper in Bremen, asking for a continuation of previous permission for the Neubronner family to teach their children at home.
“I understand that this family would like to homeschool their children and that while you previously allowed them to do so you are refusing to permit them to homeschool this year,” the letter from HSLDA President J. Michael Smith said.
“We also ask you to use your influence to modify the Bremen City-State [law] to make homeschooling possible for anyone who chooses it. To deny parents the right to homeschool their children is to deny them a basic and fundamental human right. Will you consider setting an example for your whole nation that respects the rights of parents and children to be home educated?”
WND has reported previously how German officials targeted an American family of Baptist missionaries for deportation because they belong to a group that refuses “to give their children over to the state school system.”
In the newest case, the HSLDA said Tillman and Dagmar Neubronner run a small publishing house from their home, and homeschool sons Moritz, 10, and Thomas, 8. The boys had not fared well in Montessori or experimental schools “for a variety of reasons including the bus rides, the noise in the classrooms, and lack of challenging material, and a failure to connect with the kids in the school.”
The Neubronners filed for an “excuse” from mandatory schooling in 2006 and were told it would be granted if the school psychologist agreed the children would suffer at public school. That official, however, refused, and authorities threatened the family with a fine of 6,000 euros.
The parents then took their children to school and said, “We are here but we will not force our children to stay here,” and school officials eventually relented and agreed to a contract that the Neubronners provide homeschooling under the supervision of local teachers.
Their court action over the denial also was turned back, and authorities again have threatened them with a 6,000 euro fine, so “local school officials have indicated that, in light of their loss at the trial level and the opinion of the appeals court on their low likelihood of success on appeal, they cannot allow the Neubronners to continue with the contract approach,” the HSLDA said.
As of yesterday, authorities had searched the family’s home to determine whether there were items that could be confiscated to be sold to pay the “fine,” and authorities also were considering jailing the father, to see whether that would make him change his mind, according to the HSLDA.
The HSLDA letter pointed out to the German officials the Treaty of Amsterdam “calls for respect for the fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.”
“These same rights are solemnly proclaimed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, most notably Article 6 (Right to liberty and security of person), Article 7 (Respect for private and family life), Article 10 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion), Article 14 (Right to education), Article 20 (Equality before the law), Article 21 (Non-discrimination), Article 22 (Cultural, religious and linguistic diversity), Article 24 (Rights of the child), and Article 47 (Right to an effective remedy and a fair trial),” the letter said. “All of these items indicate that homeschooling should be possible for those who choose it. Germany is unique among all civilized countries in Europe who treat home education so harshly.”
The letter even noted the call by the U.N. for Germany to “reform” its oppression of homeschooling.
“Distance learning methods and homeschooling represent valid options which could be developed in certain circumstances, bearing in mind that parents have the right to choose the appropriate type of education for their children, as stipulated in article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” the report said.
“The promotion and development of a system of public, government-funded education should not entail the suppression of forms of education that do not require attendance at a school,” the U.N. said. “In this context, the Special Rapporeteur received complaints about threats to withdraw the parental rights of parents who chose home-schooling methods for their children.”
Dagmar Neubronner told HSLDA that the most recent “fine” announced is 4,500 euros, or about $6,300, which she said the family won’t pay.
Authorities then have the option, she told HSLDA, to “send police to our house to have them bring the children to school” or “send a bailiff/marshall to our house or garnish our accounts.”
“We are happy and well, and since we are sure that this is our way as it should be, we are not stressed, but full of trust,” she said.
In the case involving Melissa Busekros, a German appeals court ultimately ordered legal custody of the teenager who was taken from her home by a police squad and detained in a psychiatric hospital for being homeschooled be returned to her family because she no longer is in danger.
The lower court’s ruling had ordered police officers to take Melissa – then 15 – from her home, if necessary by force, and place her in a mental institution for a variety of evaluations. She was kept in custody from early February until April, when she turned 16 and under German law was subject to different laws.
At that point she simply walked away from the foster home where she had been required to stay and returned home.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole.”
Drautz said homeschool students’ test results may be as good as for those in school, but “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.”
The German government’s defense of its “social” teachings and mandatory public school attendance was clarified 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.”