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A homeschooling family is trying to arrange an escape from Germany before authorities can complete a court action that would give the state custody of their five children, according to a pro-family advocacy organization.
The case involves Klaus and Kathrin Landahl, who have been living in Altensteig with their five children under the age of 13, including four who are school age, according to officials at Netzwerk-Bildungsfreiheit.
And this case is just one of two where the parents are arranging to move out of Germany in order to provide what they consider the best schooling opportunities for their children, according to the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association.
The second family was identified as Dagmar and Tilman Neubronner, who have had an ongoing battle with local authorities over the education of their children, but now have confirmed plans to leave Germany and give up residency there.
The urgent court action, however, targeted the Landahl family, according to Netzwerk-Bildungsfreiheit.
Officials there said the father already is in England, but the mother, Kathrin, remains behind in Germany because one of her children is being treated in a hospital.
“They have deregistered children and wife in Germany, but nevertheless the mayor of Altensteig, the town where the Landahls lived, has filed a lawsuit with the local family court to take custody [of the children] away from the Landahls,” an organization spokesman said.
“As the mayor knows that the family wants to leave Germany and that they have deregistered, his attempt is that the family court takes custody away in a so-called … (preliminary warrant) which means that custody can be taken away without a hearing [for] the parents,” he said. “The final decision of the court can be pronounced later, but its intention is to prevent the parents from leaving the country with the children.”
He said in this case, authorities are seeking to deprive the parents of their right to make decisions about their children’s schooling as well as their right “to determine the place of abode.”
He compared the actions of the German government to those more usually associated with the old East Germany or Soviet Union in that “not only parental rights are limited more and more, also the right to choose where you want to live is restricted.”
Reports said the family already had rented an apartment abroad and begun the process of moving, but then were served with a legal notice of the lawsuit regarding custody.
The HSLDA, which has been active in other cases of German families falling victim to government enforcement of that nation’s Hitler-era ban on homeschooling, said the policy “is in stark contrast to all other democratic and free societies that embrace homeschooling and recognize that parents have the primary responsibility and inalienable right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.”
The organization called it “tragic” that German families “must choose between living in their homeland and homeschooling their children.”
“Such behavior should not be tolerated by the rest of the free world and we call on governments and private citizens to take action to tell Germany that such policies are an embarrassment to them and must be changed,” the group’s statement said.
The update on the Neubronner case, currently pending in Bremen, came from the family itself.
“We are leaving Germany for now, and our children and my husband Tilman have already given up their permanent residence in Germany,” said a note from Dagmar Neubronner. “I will maintain my permanent residence in Bremen because I am the bearer of our small publishing house…”
“Fortunately, we have been invited to several places in Europe. That is why our new life will start with a very long journey to see all those places and meet supporting friends and families,” she wrote. “Nevertheless, it is hard to leave everything behind, especially our tomcat (a neighbor will take care of him), our relatives and friends and choirs and music ensembles and sports teams, our house and garden – our town and our country.”
An enclosed note from the family’s lawyer said, surprisingly, the German Federal Constitutional Court recently granted the family’s appeal.
The family had sued because members were denied legal aid in their contest against an administrative court over penalties that the government was imposing for their homeschooling. The request for legal aid had been rejected because authorities ruled the “prospect of success [was] too small.”
While that decision has been overturned, the family still chose to leave Germany because of continuing threats from the “federal minister of education” to impose penalties adding up to $10,000, plus “further coercives.”
The government already had searched the home for items that could be sold to pay the penalties, and had shut down the family’s access to bank accounts.
“Only jail and loss of custody are left” as potential penalties, their lawyer concluded.
“The Neubronners have decided that the risk to their family is too great to remaining Germany,” HSLDA said. “The family will leave Germany to protect their children from the threat of being taken away from the family and so that they can continue to homeschool.”
Government officials repeatedly have expressed a determination to stamp out “parallel societies” and that includes homeschooling.
German officials also have 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.”
And a teenager, Melissa Busekros, eventually was returned to her family months after German authorities took her from her home and forcibly detained her in a psychiatric facility for being homeschooled.
WND has reported further on other families facing fines, frozen bank accounts and court-ordered state custody of their children for resisting Germany’s mandatory public school requirements, which by government admission are assigned to counter “the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views.”
“Even the United Nations has called on Germany to reform the way it treats homeschoolers. We appeal to the German people and German leadership to do what is right and to protect rather than attack families who choose to homeschool their children,” the HSDLA has noted.
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 in 2007 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.”
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