Annie and Dominic Johansson
Social-services agents in Sweden have swooped down on an elementary school to grab a 9-year-old boy and take him out of class so he would not meet an internationally known human-rights attorney working on the family’s custody dispute with the state, according to the attorney and parents.
Government officials then canceled a scheduled telephone conversation between the child, Domenic Johansson, and his parents, Christer and Annie, because of “what happened today at the school.”
The incident developed today in Gotland, Sweden, where the Johansson family has been at odds with local government and school officials over their efforts to homeschool Domenic, and other issues, for more than a year.
Since then, he’s been in court-approved state custody while his parents have been allowed short visits once every five weeks, with occasional telephone contacts.
The family had reported a ray of sunlight in their case recently when Ruby Harrold-Claesson, the president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, was assigned by the local courts to their case.
Court officials had picked a local attorney to represent the family, but Christer Johansson rejected him out of hand. The court, in a move that surprised advocates for the family, appointed Harrold-Claesson, who specializes in cases in which children have been taken by state or other government officials.
The conflict developed when she arrived on a plane today, met the parents, and then wanted to see the school environment where government officials had placed Domenic.
The lawyer reported the situation to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been working on the Johansson case. The organization has posted information about the case on its site, and there also is a Facebook page dealing with dispute.
She reported the Johanssons met her at the airport, “and we drove to see Domenic at the school.
“We found his classroom but he wasn’t there. He was at a yoga class, the teacher said. So we decided we would wait outside the school during the 20 min[utes]s or so that she said he would be away,” the lawyer confirmed.
“When we went back to Domenic’s classroom, the headmaster and his teacher met us. We asked for Domenic, but he still hadn’t returned. The headmaster, whom Christer has known since childhood, informed us that he had called the social worker and she told him that we were not allowed to see Domenic. We informed him that we just wanted to say hello to Domenic, then we would leave. He told us that if we insisted he would have to call the [social services] and she would call the police, so we insisted,” the report continued.
“The headmaster invited us outside but we lingered outside Domenic’s classroom. Then I noticed that the teacher was on the phone and she tried to hide behind the door so we wouldn’t see what she was doing. I realized immediately that she was calling someone vital,” she wrote.
“We accompanied the headmaster outside and talked a little. He wanted more details about the case, but he said that he had received strict orders from the [social services]. We told him that he has a duty to act according to his conscience and that everyone has to face the consequences of his decisions.”
She continued, “The headmaster received a call and stepped aside to receive it. Christer went to the car to fetch his camera. The headmaster informed us that the [social services agent] Gunvor Allqvie would be coming to talk to us. When Christer returned with his camera he informed us that his parents, who were waiting on the parking lot, had told him that a truck had driven to the school and Domenic was taken out by the back door. His grandmother said hello to Domenic, but he was quickly shoved into the truck and driven away by the foster parents,” the lawyer said.
Hours later, Christer Johansson got an e-mail from social services agent Caroline Palmqvist saying, “After what happened today at the school, we have decided that you will not be allowed to talk with Domenic in the phone this evening.”
Mike Donnelly, a staff attorney for the HSLDA, called it a “petty power play” and said it demonstrates “the kind of gross disregard these social services agents have for basic human dignity.”
He said, “The family were simply accompanying their lawyer on a visit to the school to see Domenic’s educational environment. We continue to hope that justice will prevail although it will be very difficult for the family to heal from this totally unnecessary trauma inflicted upon them by Swedish authorities.”
Gustaf Hofstedt, the president of the local social services board, told WND by telephone from Sweden there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.
“I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling,” he told WND. “But that is not the case.”
Asked to explain, he said, “I can’t answer that question because of secrecy.”
Then he complained about the participation of Harrold-Claesson in the case.
“There was an attorney that wasn’t accepted actually by the parents,” he said. “The first attorney was very much welcome to get information.”
He said he couldn’t comment on what happened at the school.
It is the Swedish Social Services Committee that has scheduled a meeting Wednesday on the issue of custody of Domenic, who was 7 when abducted by police from the airplane.
However, Donnelly said no immediate results are expected from the meeting.
But he confirmed the involvement by Harrold-Claesson probably is good news for the family.
He told WND the situation in Sweden overall appears to be deteriorating for homeschooling families. He said he has just begun working on another case in which a family has been fined 20,000 Swedish kroners, about $4,500, for homeschooling a 13-year-old who, by court statements of school officials themselves, is outstanding both academically and socially..
It was last June when Swedish police barged into a passenger jet awaiting departure from Sweden to India and forcibly took Domenic into custody.
The family had planned a move to India for her to be near family members when the conflict erupted.
The HSLDA documented that the child was removed “without a warrant or reasonable cause to believe that he was being harmed.
“Their reasoning? Dominic was being homeschooled, which is permitted by Swedish law, and his parents had also legally opted out of giving him standard vaccinations,” the group said.
Further, in December, “after being kept in state custody for several months with minimal visitation from his parents, a Swedish court upheld this decision.”
Christer Johansson has told WND that other parents who find themselves in such situations should “get a good lawyer” immediately.
He said he and his wife have been shocked by what has happened.
“It’s difficult for me to speak about all this, and really I have not landed yet. It’s just so crazy. It’s insane stuff that’s happening. It has to stop,” he told WND.
When the court ruling was announced, Donnelly, also director of international affairs for the HSLDA, called the court decision “deeply disturbing.”
“The hostility against homeschooling and for parent’s rights is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation,” he said.
Support also is being generated for the family on Facebook.
Christer shared one of Annie’s episodes of ill health on the blog: “The ambulance was here just a few min back, this is the fourth time Annie collapses with chest pain. We had a meeting with the socials a few weeks back, and Annie could not believe how bad they treat people, how much they humiliate! … I really wonder, do they know how to stop before she dies or what? I’m more angry then ever, this has to stop!”
“At times referred to as a ‘social utopia,’ Sweden is completely antagonistic toward homeschoolers and, in reality, anyone who deviates from what the Swedish government defines as ‘normal.’ The government’s quest for conformity produces troubling side effects: the criminalization of actions – such as a parent’s decision regarding the best form of education for his child – that ought to be the hallmarks of a free, democratic society,” HSLDA has reported.
“Taking children from their parents over minor differences in approaches to medical care (e.g. choosing not to vaccinate or delaying minor dental treatments) and for homeschooling is completely at odds with the basic human rights which all Western democracies should reflect,” the HSLDA said.
The attack on homeschoolers appears to be part of a trend in some Western nations, including Germany. WND reported when a German family was granted asylum in the United States because of the persecution members would face if returned to their home country.
In an online statement at the time of the abduction, Johansson said, “While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife’s family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well-being of my son who has only been allowed to see his parents for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything.”
“What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid,” said Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe. “This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him.”