A mother and father who have been homeschooling their children have been given four weeks to submit a formal appeal of their three-month prison terms, according to a new report.
A statement released today by the Home School Legal Defense Association said Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek of Archfeldt, Germany, “have just received their formal written sentence of three months each in prison because they homeschool.”
“Although the family knew of the sentence after the hearing last month, the court took weeks to prepare its formal written opinion,” the HSLDA said. “The family now has four weeks to submit their written appeal of the judge’s decision.”
“Unfortunately, it appears that the issue for this German judge, and too many others, is less about academic preparation and respecting the rights of parents and the family and more about asserting [his] autocratic will on families who wish to educate their children at home in accordance with their conscience,” the HSLDA, the world’s premiere homeschooling advocacy body, said.
The Dudek case, which has been in the news since a federal prosecutor announced his intention to see the parents behind bars, drew stunned reactions when the sentence was announced verbally weeks ago.
“Words escape me, it’s unconscionable, incredible, shocking,” HSLDA staff attorney Mike Donnelly told WND at the time.
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, criticized school officials for refusing to answer the family’s request for approval of their “private school.”
But 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.”
The HSLDA said today that after reading the judge’s opinion, Dudek said that he couldn’t believe the “hardline totalitarianism” it represented.
“Mr. Dudek reported that this judge referred to the infamous Konrad case decided by the German high court in 2006 that said that homeschooling could not be allowed because it would lead to the creation of ‘parallel societies,’” the group said. “If German judges and public policy makers took the time to look a few miles beyond their own borders they would be able to see the absurdity of this reasoning. This kind of dangerous legal reasoning, in support of a state policy that represses the rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children, is a sobering example of what can happen when the courts determine what is in the best interest of children rather than parents.
“This demonstrates what could happen in the United States if the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child were ever ratified,” the group said.
The HSLDA said the family members have been greatly encouraged by letters from other homeschoolers around the world, and the Dudeks can be reached at: Friedrichstr. No. 6, 37293 Archfeldt Germany.
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 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 previously on the issue, contending 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.”