German education officials say they are willing to use “force” as their options dwindle in a years-long fight against a homeschooling family, according to a report today from the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Jurgen and Rosemarie Dudek have been homeschooling their children in Germany for more than a decade, and for a good portion of that time have been battling in court with the government and its attempt to enforce a Nazi-era law requiring public school attendance.
The couple was sentenced to prison but but won an appeal and now is appealing a fine.
But the HSLDA, which has been active in supporting the family’s homeschool efforts, reported today that a letter to the family threatens the use of force.
The letter to the parents from Hesse Regional School Office Director Anita Hoffman said the state may remedy its war against the family with a decision to “take custody of the children from the parents” or to “transport the children to school by force.”
The family’s religious and philosophical conviction that the children would be harmed by a German public school education has inspired others. Their story is being made into a documentary called “Building Education by Trusting God” by Woodcutter Film Studios.
The trailer for the coming project:
Jurgen Dudek told HSLDA it’s the first time that the head of the school authorities herself sent the family a letter.
“I believe they’re in a fix, not knowing exactly how to go on with our case,” he said. “So they can only resort to putting all kinds of pressure on us, this time even threatening the forced transportation of our children to school.”
The parents were given a retrial in 2009 in the dispute. It was then that 90-day jail sentences for each parent were overturned and replaced with fines, which now are on appeal.
The family’s older son, who is finished with school and is apprenticed as a carpenter, earned a top score on a state educational exam. Still, authorities continue to press for the family to acquiesce to the state and put the other children in public school.
Some of the next generation of Dudeks
The HSLDA said Germany is one of the nations in which there is active persecution of homeschooling families. Last year a judge in the United States granted another homeschooling family asylum from Germany.
Another nation where similar crackdowns are under way is Sweden, where social services workers took custody of a 7-year-old boy in 2009 over homeschooling. He remains in the custody of the government, which now apparently is seeking to assume permanent control over him.
Parents in Germany are “fined thousands of dollars, threatened with jail time or the loss of custody of their children,” the HSLDA reported. “Ironically, the highest German courts have ruled that homeschooling may be considered an abuse of parental rights and can be banned in the interest of ‘stamping out parallel societies.'”
It was in 1937, when the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, 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.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, commented previously on the issue, contending the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
As WND reported, Drautz emphasized the importance of schools teaching socialization, which was evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case objected 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.”
But Michael Donnelly, the HSLDA’s director of international relations, contends home education is a human right protected under international law and that Germany has gone astray.
“The German Constitution and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognize that the right of parents to direct a child’s education is superior to that of the state. However, given the opportunity to protect this right in favor of home education, two of Germany’s highest constitutional courts got it wrong. This gave ‘cover’ to lower courts, politicians and bureaucrats to persecute home educators,” he said. “The Dudek case may provide an opportunity for the court to revisit its rulings in these cases.”
He said the ultimate solution only would come when politicians in Germany decide to accept homeschooling.
“Germany is a federal republic, and its states control education, which means the real solution will come only when state-level German politicians step up and address this fundamental human rights issue,” Donnelly said. “The number of homeschoolers is not large in Germany for obvious reason, but the failure of German politicians to act regarding this fundamental human rights concern speaks volumes about Germany’s commitment to pluralism and democracy.”
An attorney for the Dudeks, Andreas Vogt, is arguing that the Hesse district school law is too vague to permit criminal sanctions for those who homeschool, the HSLDA report said.
“I have the impression,” Jurgen Dudek wrote to HSLDA, “that this is one of the last chances for German homeschoolers to appeal at the constitutional court in this matter, as the number of homeschoolers continues to dwindle due to the exodus of homeschooling families from Germany. And without any pressure from within, the state has no reason whatsoever to change its stance on homeschooling.”
The level of vitriol in the government’s fight has been high.
At their first hearing the Dudeks were fined, and then at a second hearing in 2008, they were ordered to serve three-month prison terms when a prosecutor declared he was unhappy with fines and wanted them in jail.
At a later hearing in 2009, however, a judge spared them the jail time and fined the couple $181, despite arguments from the prosecutor that only jail is a deterrent to homeschooling families.
The family from Archfield had been targeted by a prosecutor identified as Herwig Mueller, who asserted that jail is the only sufficient punishment for the family’s “crime.”
At the time of the first sentencing hearing, the prosecutor told the family, “You don’t have to worry about the fine, because I will send you to jail.”