A homeschool family from Sweden is taking its case against its government to the European Court of Human Rights even though that court has a history of “confused” rulings that have emboldened nations such as Germany and Sweden to crack down on home education.
That’s according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, which advocates for homeschooling families worldwide.
“The ECHR has been quite hostile to homeschooling and also parental rights generally in education,” explained Mike Donnelly, HSLDA director of global outreach.
“Despite an unqualified command that the rights of parents must be respected, the ECHR’s jurisprudence has confused the right to education recognized in the European Convention on Human Rights with the notion that democracy and pluralism can only be protected by state teaching,” he said.
“This emboldens states like Germany and Sweden who treat homeschooling families harshly,” he said.
The Petersens, in their own court filings, cited Swedish and international human rights laws in their contention that it is Sweden’s duty to allow them to educate their elementary-age daughter at home according to their convictions.
In their appeal to the Swedish Supreme Court, the Petersens argued that “the court’s application of this narrow portion of legislative history conflicts with the larger intent and purpose of Swedish school law, as well as Sweden’s international human rights obligations.”
“The family applied to local authorities as required by law at the beginning of the school year but were told they could not homeschool because there were no extraordinary circumstances. The family has countered by insisting that Swedish courts have ignored important human rights treaties. Daniel Petersen says that Sweden has an obligation to uphold the European Convention of Human Rights which parliament made part of Swedish law in 1995,” HSLDA reported.
Petersen said, it is “commendable that Sweden strives for ‘comprehensive and objective’ education in school, but for the Swedish courts to use this claim as grounds for the denial of a fundamental human right is untenable and violates Sweden’s obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights and other human rights norms that expressly protect the parents prior right to choose their children’s education according to their own convictions.”
“Human rights cannot be arbitrarily taken away, neither can the state decide when to ‘allow’ such rights to be exercised; they are fundamental and inalienable for all human beings. If Sweden wants to live up to the title ‘champion of human rights,’ then it’s time for the authorities to loosen their grip and let Sweden’s parents take back what is rightfully ours.”
Eillinor Peterson told HSDLA: “My daughter is both American and Swedish. She needs to be brought up in a bilingual environment and also learn about the world with two cultural perspectives. This is difficult to achieve in a Swedish school. We also wish to empower our daughter to be actively engaged in directing her learning. The Swedish school law has a vision for students being able to receive individualized instruction, to reach as far as they are able – and that the students have influence over their education. We completely agree. In our case, this is best met with education outside of school.”
HSLDA said the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court turned down the Petersens, so the case is being elevated to the ECHR.
Donnelly pointed out that previously, in rulings in 1992, 1993 and 2006, the ECHR “has refused to find these countries in violation of the convention. They were wrong then and are wrong now. We hope the court will reconsider its misguided judgments with the Petersen case and others we plan to file in 2015.”
In the infamous Konrad decision in Germany, an international tribunal ruled that the government has equal rights with parents concerning the education of children. The ruling reasoned that homeschooling might “promote” a “parallel society.”
ADF Global senior counsel Roger Kiska said the court “has missed many opportunities to uphold the rights of children and parents as families to be free from excessive state interference.”
“We plan to work with HSLDA and these families to appeal to the core foundations of the treaty – that families and individuals should be protected from state interference. The court has emboldened states to kick parents aside as the state Daniel Petersen told HSLDA. has sought more and more control. This must stop,” he said.
Daniel Petersen told HSLDA the education of his children” is important to us.”
“We want them to pursue their interests and passions while building a multicultural foundation of knowledge and values so they can become successful and contributing members in an increasingly interconnected global community. For us, school simply can’t provide the education we want for our children; choosing another path is a natural choice,” he said.
Sweden might yet have to answer for its decision in 2009 to “state-nap” a 7-year-old boy from his parents for being homeschooled and put him into permanent state custody, according to HSLDA.
The Swedish government’s seizure of Dominic Johansson from a jetliner as his parents were set to leave for India drew worldwide attention. It sparked a global outcry among human rights activists and home educators.
Numerous experts and attorneys have described the Johansson case as a brazen example of “state-napping.”
In the case, legal experts have said Swedish officials violated multiple human rights enshrined in international treaties to which the Swedish government is a party, including the right of parents to direct the education of their children, family life, due process and travel.
“The seizure of the child without a valid court order, from a plane he was lawfully entitled to be on, the detention by the state in foster care with virtually zero contact with his family and finally the termination of parental rights is a clear violation of international human rights standards,” HSLDA Founder and Chairman Michael Farris, who holds a master of law degree in public international law from the University of London, said at the time.
Dominic’s parents, Christer and Annie, found their family targeted after a dispute over homeschooling with local officials. When the family tried to leave Sweden in 2009 for India, the mother’s homeland, armed police stormed the plane and abducted young Dominic without a warrant or court order.
Eventually, the courts moved permanent custody of Dominic from his parents to the state.
Swedish officials have repeatedly refused to comment to WND and other media outlets about the case.
Also chased out of Sweden over homeschooling was Jonas Himmelstrand, president-in-exile of the National Association for Swedish Homeschoolers.
“My family left Sweden in 2012 on recommendation of the local Child Protective Services who explicitly told me that we were not safe to continue homeschooling in Sweden. Also we were fined over $15,000 for homeschooling our daughter the 2010-2011 school year,” he said.
“The legislative history of the new law says that homeschooling isn’t needed because schools are supposed to be objective and comprehensive – but what if people disagree with the values taught by the Swedish national curriculum? And what if they just believe that homeschooling is a better way for their children? That is the whole point of respecting parental convictions in education – so that children can be taught in accordance with the wishes of their parents – who know them best. I hope that this new case inspires the court to more carefully consider our school law,” he said.