A mother and father who have been homeschooling their children each have been ordered by a German judge to serve three-month prison terms after a prosecutor said he was unhappy with fines the family paid and he wanted the parents jailed.
The sentences for Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek were announced in Germany’s equivalent of a district court today in the state of Hesse, according to a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association. The group, the premier homeschooling advocacy organization in the world, has been monitoring and helping in the Dudeks’ case since before a federal prosecutor announced his intention more than a year ago to see the parents behind bars.
“Words escape me, it’s unconscionable, incredible, shocking,” HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly told WND after he got word of the sentence. “They’ll appeal of course.”
He said the prosecutor’s agenda is clear, with the mindset: “You guys are rebelling against the state. We’re going to punish you.”
Donnelly said work was begun immediately to pursue an appeal through the court system in the German state.
He described the sentences as “breathtaking.”
The prosecutor said at the time he would demand jail sentences of three months each for the parents. Muller also said he would not permit the case to be resolved with probation for the parents.
A newspaper reporter in Hesse, Harald Sagawe, said the parents previously paid fines because “they did not send their children to school, for religious reasons.”
He continued, “The parents, Christians who closely follow the Bible, teach their children themselves. Two years ago the court had also dealt with the Dudeks. That case, dealing with the payment of a fine, had been dropped.”
Judge Peter Hobbel, who imposed the fines, also criticized school officials for refusing to answer the family’s request for approval of their “private school.”
Arno Meissner, the chief of the government’s local education department, said he would enforce the mandatory school attendance law against the family, and he said he resented the judge’s interference.
“His duty is to make a judgment when the prosecutor brings a charge and to stay out of administrative matters,” Meissner said at the time.
The attitude is typical of some officials in Germany, where homeschooling has been stamped on since the Nazi era, critics say.
Practical Homeschool Magazine has 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.”
Joerg Grosseleumern, a spokesman for the the Netzwork-Bildungsfreiheit, a German homeschool advocacy group, said in Hesse a family’s failure to follow the mandatory public school attendance laws violates not only administration regulations but the criminal code.
“It is embarrassing the German officials put parents into jail whose children are well educated and where the family is in good order,” he wrote in an earlier alert about the situation. “We personally know the Dudeks as such a family.”
Officials in Hesse have said not even the family’s efforts to move out of the region would halt their prosecution.
HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany, virtually all of them either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
Just weeks ago, WND reported the Dudeks warned about a new German federal law that also gives family courts the authority to take custody of children “as soon as there is a suspicion of child abuse,” which is how the nation’s courts have defined homeschooling.
“The new law is seen as a logical step in carving up family rights after a federal court had decided that homeschooling was an abuse of custody,” said the letter from Juergen Dudek to the HSLDA.
The letter said local “youth welfare” offices’ new authority includes “withdrawal of parental custody as one of the methods for punishing ‘uncooperative’ parents.”
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.”
Drautz said schools teach socialization, and as WND reported, that is important, as evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case wrote 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 recent years Germany has established a reputation for cracking down on parents who object, for reasons ranging from religious to social, to the nation’s public school indoctrination of their children.
WND has reported several times on custody battles, children being taken into custody and families even fleeing Germany because of the situation.
One of the higher-profile cases on which WND has reported was that of a teen who was taken by police to the psychiatric ward because she was homeschooled.
The courts ruled it was appropriate for a judge to order police officers to take Melissa Busekros, 15 at the time, into custody in January 2007.
Officials later declined to re-arrest her after she turned 16. She was subject to different requirements and simply fled state custody and returned to her family.
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