Two parents have been summoned to court this week in Cuba.
Their crime? Homeschooling.
While President Obama re-established diplomatic relations with the communist regime, the hoped-for improvement in human rights hasn’t materialized. And the demand that Ramón and Adya Rigal appear in Guantanamo District Court because they educated their children at home is not a good sign, according to experts.
Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies that parents have the right to choose how to educate their children, but Cuba’s national law still states “education is a function of the state” and outlines what everyone must learn at a “minimum.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association is defending the Rigals, who are trying to get additional attention from President Trump’s administration as well as Cuba’s highest authorities.
The parents are scheduled to be in court Tuesday to face criminal charges for homeschooling their children, ages 8 and 11.
“We will appear and defend our rights that are protected by the Cuban constitution and treaties that Cuba has signed,” said Ramón, who is also a pastor, in a statement released through HSLDA. “The authorities have not acknowledged this, but we will stand on these rights.”
Mike Donnelly, the director of global outreach for HSLDA, which is the world’s premiere homeschooling organization, said it’s a simple matter of international law that parents have the right “to choose the kind of education their children shall receive.”
The U.N.’s declaration even recognizes it as a “prior” right that is higher than others.
“When parents choose to home educate their children they are exercising their own right as well as taking on the responsibility to provide an education for their children,” he said. “There is no human rights framework or treaty that recognizes that an education must be provided by government-controlled schools.”
HSLDA is asking supporters to sign an online petition directed to the Cuban embassy in Washington that declares: “A society that forces children to learn only in public school is totalitarian. The right of people to establish private schools and to homeschool is a minimum expectation in a free nation. As Cuban-U.S. relations are normalized, we must ensure that this right is upheld.”
The petitions calls on Cuba to immediately acknowledge the “right of parents to homeschool their children and stop its mistreatment of the Rigal family.”
HSLDA reported the parents are facing up to eight years in prison, fines and the seizure of their children.
While they already have begun the process to seek asylum in the U.S., they have “not received any formal response other than an invitation to an interview with a refugee office that appears to be part of the U.S. presence in Cuba,” HSLDA said.
If they are in jail, however, they would be unable to attend the meeting.
“We are willing to sell everything and leave our country, even though it should be our right to educate our children,” Ramon told HSLDA. “We are not moved by [the Cuban government’s] way of thinking. We know that we have the support of many around the world and we know that God is working in our circumstances. We have hope he can and will deliver us. We are thankful for HSLDA and the support we are receiving from many around the world.”
The organization also is working with members of Congress to bring the case to the direct attention of the Trump administration, noting the president previously affirmed his support for a parent’s right to homeschool.
“We need help to bring this matter before the governments of Cuba and the U.S. We are asking everyone to sign and share our petition in support of this family. This petition will send a message to the Cuban ambassador and our elected officials that no family should have to suffer for choosing to homeschool their children. Parents should be free to give their children the best possible educational experience,” HSLDA said.
WND reported the arrest of the parents Feb. 21.
The parents were visited by a team of police officials, a lawyer and several teachers.
“They wanted to impose their position upon us and gave us a warning notice and told us they would take us before the courts because of our position on homeschooling,” Ramón said in a statement released through HSLDA.
“I visited authorities several times to find a peaceable solution to my problem,” he added. “I brought up the possibility of homeschooling under their supervision. I was told that if I did, my wife and I would be imprisoned and our children sent away.”
It was the Municipal Office of Education in Guantanamo that explained “in our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations.”
Cuban officials didn’t respond to earlier inquiries from Donnelly. He had pointed out that “as a matter of international human rights law, the right of parents to choose the kind of education their children shall receive is recognized as a ‘prior’ right by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights in article 26(3).”
Prior to 2014, when Obama and Raul Castro cut a deal to restore ties with Cuba, there had been no official contact between the nations in more than 50 years.