Administrators in the federal government’s education agency in Germany have put a bull’s-eye on another homeschooling family, with orders that the parents appear in court sometime after Christmas, according to a report from the world’s largest homeschool advocacy organization.
The government in the prominent U.S. ally in the European Union in the past famously has ordered a young girl to be placed in a psychiatric ward for being homeschooled, and later harassed another family so that members fled to the U.S., where they successfully sought political asylum from the persecution in their homeland.
Now, a new report from the Home School Legal Defense Association is describing the problems facing yet another family.
The parents, Thomas and Marit Schaum, were ordered to appear in court this week, but then their court date was delayed until January, according to the HSLDA, which works directly with many problem scenarios in the United States and worldwide.
“The Schaum family anticipates that their court appearance could result in a … hefty fine or jail sentence,” the report said. “The family has been in and out of court since 2002, although the authorities left them alone for several years.
“Officials began persecuting them again in 2008 and 2009,” the report said. The HSLDA said the father, Thomas Schaum, “recently spent several nights in prison for that family’s decision to homeschool.”
Commenting on the situation was another German homeschool father, whose experience with the heavy hand of government is first-hand.
Jurgen Dudek noted that three of the eight Schaum children no longer are of the age to be affected by compulsory school laws, but “our authorities couldn’t care less.”
The HSLDA previously has documented the Dudek case, where both parents originally were ordered to be jailed. They warned others during their fight about a German law, just adopted at the time, that would allow social workers to take custody of children “as soon as there is a suspicion of child abuse.”
And they said the government’s definition of child abuse included being homeschooled. But they fought the case, and ultimately the 90-day jail sentences were reduced to $300 fines.
“When the family declined to pay the fine, a court officer came to demand payment,” HSLDA reported. “The officer took money he found in their kitchen cashbox and further threatened to take away the children’s musical instruments for payment.”
HSLDA reported that it appears the German department of education officials appeared to resume targeting the Schaums after the Dudek case was finished in court, especially since both families live in the German region of Hessen.
“The aggressive Jugendamt, German Child Protective Agency, has visited the Schaums repeatedly in recent months and has already given them a number of fines to shoulder,” the organization reported.
It said of six million residents in the Hessen region, the Schaums and Dudeks are the only parents homeschooling their children.
According to Dudek’s report of the situation, the Schaums lived in Communist East Germany before its collapse, and have “had their share of experience with a ‘real’ totalitarian regime.”
“The Schaum and Dudek families received word that the local Schulamt – German offices of education – and even the state Ministry of Education fear that the fierce resistance of these two families will spread. It seems that this unfounded fear of homeschooling motivates the authorities’ hard-line attitude,” HSLDA reported.
When the family of Uwe and Hannalore Romeike fled Germany for the U.S. several years ago, they sought asylum from their home country’s persecution, and a U.S. judge granted them protection.
“It is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children,” officials with HSLDA reported at the time.
Michael Donnelly, a staff attorney for the organization and director of its International Relations division, said at the time the judge “appropriately noted that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and his decision reflects U.S. law which upholds the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing their children as an enduring American tradition, entitling the family to protection from persecution.”
WND has reported on German homeschoolers who have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, have been threatened with jail and have even watched their children be confined to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed with “school phobia.”
HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany. Virtually all of them are either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
Germany effectively has made homeschooling illegal because of laws dating back to the pre-World War II move as Hitler rose to power and tried to make raising and training children a responsibility of the government.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, previously wrote on the issue in a blog, explaining the German government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
As WND reported, the German government believes schooling is critical to socialization, as evident in its response to another set of parents who objected to police officers picking up their child 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. “… 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.”
However, much of the recent controversy over homeschooling has been coming out of Sweden. There, officials have announced a $3,000 fine for a couple homeschooling their son, then they barred them from a court hearing on the dispute.
Previously, Sweden was in the news with the Johansson case. Social workers there had police officers forcibly take custody of Dominic Johansson, who was being homeschooled while his parents prepared for a move to India. Most recently, a judge ruled social workers will continue to have custody of the boy, who has not lived with his parents for nearly 18 months.