A German family has completed its flight to Great Britain after the mayor of their hometown filed a court action to give custody of the children to the state because the parents have been homeschooling, according to an advocacy group.
Officials with Netzwerk-Bildungsfreiheit said Klaus and Kathrin Landahl and their five children, including four of school age, “are in safety in England. They reached Dover on Saturday midnight.”
However, officials said the court has not issued a final ruling in the case brought by the mayor of Altensteig, a city with a sister-city promotional relationship with Butte, Mont.
Chief Executive Paul Babb of Butte told WND he had not been aware of such controversies and he would have to solicit input from members of the community before determining whether “this would impact this relationship.”
He said he believes “it’s the parents’ right to school their children they way they see fit.”
Netszerk-Bildungsfreiheit said the situation with the Landahl family is just one of many such attacks on German homeschoolers, which appear to be coming more frequently and with more intensity.
Just this week, a message was sent from a Bavarian man who identified himself as “Mathew.”
“This morning we received a call from the German ministry of education. Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning they will send the police to our home and take Josia (6), Lou Ann (10) and Aileen (13) by force, to the public school,” the worried father wrote.
“We have been teaching our children through the German Home School Association for 10 years with the approval of the German School authorities. Even though we spend most of the time outside of Germany (in Eastern Europe), the government insists that our children visit the German school,” he continued.
“If we do not comply the government will ultimately revoke our rights as parents and take custody of our children. Since the Supreme Court ruled against homeschooling last fall, most of the homeschooling families have left, some even fled, the country. The government is cracking down ruthlessly on families and there is no legal protection,” he said.
He said the family’s next scheduled ministry trip, six weeks in Romania, Hungary and Croatia, now is threatened by the education ministerial order.
The Landahl family already had deregistered as residents in Germany, but a spokesman for the advocacy group said the Altensteig mayor “has filed a lawsuit with the local family court to take custody [of the children] away from the Landahls.”
“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
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.”
The group spokesman 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.
Another family also has confirmed plans to leave Germany because of the harassment they been subjected to as homeschoolers, according to the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association.
Dagmar and Tilman Neubronner have been falling victim to government enforcement of Germany’s Hitler-era ban on homeschooling.
The HSLDA said such a 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.
“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…”
“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.”
The family was facing 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 recently 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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