Homeschoolers need to be making plans to flee Germany en masse after a government document implied the advent of a coming crackdown that would target them, an advocate says.
The government letter is addressed to “School Administrations of State and Private Schools” and its subject line specifies “Custody withdrawal for violation of mandatory school attendance.”
“The [German] court determined that the parents’ refusal to send their children to either a state or a state approved private school is a misuse of parental custody rights, which violates the well-being of the child,” the letter, dated just a few weeks ago, said, “and which requires actions by the family court. …”
“We ask for acknowledgment and compliance,” the letter, signed by
N. Hauf., director of school affairs, said.
WND has carried numerous reports of homeschooling families in Germany running afoul of that nation’s Nazi-era law banning homeschooling, and being fined or otherwise penalized. In recent days, however, the threats against homeschooling parents frequently have included loss of custody of their children, and several families already have fled.
The government letter was forwarded to the United States by a homeschooling advocate in Germany, who expressed his own personal fears for the safety of his family and contemplated leaving his home country himself.
“It is very likely that our family [will have] to leave the country this year. Maybe I have to bring my children and my wife to a place of safety within the next weeks or even days,” the advocate said in a personal message to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the world’s largest homeschool advocacy organization, which has been involved in a number of recent cases in Germany.
“The behavior of German authorities against families who homeschool goes against the very fiber of what free and democratic societies stand for – that governments exist to protect the rights of people not to take them away,” Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney for the HSLDA, said. “In Germany it appears that the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government do not care to protect the human right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children which includes the right to homeschool – a view shared by nearly all other western civilized countries.”
The government letter was from the State of Bavaria’s Ministry of Education and appeared to be directed to local school officials, essentially declaring an open season on homeschoolers in Germany.
It followed a recent Federal High Court decision, which now remains under appeal, that “schulverweigerung” – or those who “refuse” to give their children to public school authorities – actually are misusing their parental rights.
It calls for action against those people, and finishes with the phrase, translated into English, meaning, “To your attention.”
That, the German homeschool advocate said, is an encouragement for civil and criminal case authorities to act against such families.
“There was not yet an official reaction from our authorities, but the case of the Landahl family shows that they can act very quickly,” the advocate said. “So it seems to me the best to think about leaving Germany. The situation is horrible. Homeschoolers who are still here are fearful what happens next. Germany changes quickly into a brutal tyranny and dictatorship.”
Without help, he said, “All homeschool families must leave our country or even give up.”
The Landahl family recently reached England in its flight from Germany in the face of a court case assembled by the mayor of Altenschieg.
The government letter noted the federal court concluded “that the partial withdrawal of custody and the withdrawal of the parental right to determine the place where their children stay to be legitimate when the mandatory school attendance law is violated continuously.”
The letter advised local authorities, “to initiate appropriate action is generally the responsibility of Youth Administration (Child Protective Services). Long term violations of the mandatory school attendance law are to be reported by the schools to the Youth Administration …,” it said.
“The County Court Houses and the County-free cities have been informed by the government accordingly,” it said.
Government crackdowns, or pogroms, are not new in Germany. The most famous probably was Kristallnacht, perpetrated in Hitler’s buildup to World War II, when The Times of London concluded, “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings … which disgraced that country yesterday.”
In one night, thousands of businesses owned by Jews and synagogues were destroyed, and tens of thousands of people jailed.
Homeschoolers fear the letter is part of a mechanism that would trigger a nationwide roundup of such “lawbreakers.”
“We are seeing what may be a severe crackdown against homeschoolers in Germany,” Donnelly said. This document “appears to send the message to local school officials that it is ‘open season’ on homeschoolers in Germany.”
He said there has been an increase in the number of families fleeing persecution in Germany, and “even American citizens in Germany are also being told that they must enroll their children in the public schools or an approved private school or else face the same measures that German families face.”
He said what’s startling is the absolute unanimity of judges’ opinions in recent cases. “Such unanimity amongst judges in Germany is itself hard to understand. I can’t imagine such unanimity amongst judges in our own country or any other free democratic society – which I suppose points out some of the important differences and why we are having these problems in Germany and nowhere else,” Donnelly said.
Even before the 2007 court ruling and the recent letter, Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, or Network for Freedom in Education, reported that German authorities were rigid in their interpretation of homeschooling bans, up to the point that they expressed plans to change the religious opinions of a family.
The group described a situation in which local police had picked up three children from one family and taken them physically to a public school.
WND reported when a German family wrote to object to such actions.
“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.”
The European Human Rights Court earlier affirmed Germany’s homeschool ban.
That specific case addressed in the opinion involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who filed the complaint in 2003 and argued that Germany’s compulsory school attendance endangered their children’s religious upbringing and promotes teaching inconsistent with the family’s Christian faith.
The court said the Konrads belong to a “Christian community which is strongly attached to the Bible” and rejected public schooling because of the explicit sexual indoctrination programs that the courses there include.
The German court already had ruled that the parental “wish” to have their children grow up in a home without such influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.” The decision also said the parents do not have an “exclusive” right to lead their children’s education.
The family had appealed under the European Convention on Human Rights statement that: “No person shall be denied the right to education. 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.”
But the court’s ruling said, instead, that schools represent society, and “it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society … The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience.”
Government officials repeatedly have expressed a determination to stamp out “parallel societies” and that includes homeschooling. An American family of Baptist missionaries reports being threatened with deportation for homeschool, 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.
“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.”
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