Authorities are dropping criminal child-neglect charges pending against a German mother and father who could have faced up to two years in jail and loss of custody for homeschooling five of their children, according to a report from the International Human Rights Group.
Spokesman Joel Thornton said his group, which has been working on the case involving the Brause family from Zittau, Germany, heard from local counsel about the government’s decision.
“We received word from our German counsel in this case, Johannes Hildebrandt, that the court and the prosecutor are dropping the charges against Mr. and Mrs. Brause. This means they no longer face up to two years in prison and the potential loss of their children. The decision of German officials is a huge victory for this family and for homeschool families in Germany,” Thornton told WND.
“We are pleased that the court and the prosecuting counsel asked whether the process can be ended,” he continued.
The case involved custody of Rosine, Jotham, Kurt-Simon, Lovis and Ernst Brause.
Thornton said the announcement came after the court received a detailed psychiatric report that there is no psychological harm to the children from homeschooling. The report also stated that the children have not been harmed, which is evidenced by their exit exams from high school, he said.
“Now the Brause family may choose whether they want to have a sentence of acquittal in a public meeting in court or a document issued that declares the process closed and the charges dropped,” he said.
“This is a huge victory for homeschool families in Germany. It means that government officials must be more careful when bringing criminal charges against home school families,” Thornton said.
Thornton, the president of IHRG, said at the time the ruling gave government officials permission to take custody of the children, although they did not do that immediately.
The case came shortly after another homeschool dispute developed in Germany. In that case, Melissa Busekros, who was 15 at the time, was removed from her home by police on a court order instructing that she be detained in a psychiatric ward because of her homeschooling.
Later, when she turned 16 and fell under a different set of regulations in Germany, she voluntarily returned home, and the courts have since backed off.
Thornton said the case involving Bert and Kathrin Brause and their family began in 2001. The family lives near the German borders with Poland and the Czech Republic. Brause wrote a letter to the governor of Saxony asking for permission to homeschool the children.
In response, state officials tried to force the family to register their children in the local public school.
Threats of fines followed, and even though social youth workers eventually testified the children were taught well, a family court decision said the custody could be moved to the state.
Then, just before the 2008 school year ended, the government registered the children in the public school involuntarily and delivered an ultimatum, Thornton reported.
The government warned that if the children were not sent to school within the week, police action could follow. When the family declined to deliver the children to a state-run school that is part of the German system criticized for its explicit sex education courses and advocacy for secular values, a prosecutor called a hearing on a charge of intentionally harming a child.
Thornton said the Brause family members are Christians and the parents homeschool for reasons of parental responsibility before God and the law.
A trial was scheduled then delayed when the IHRG announced plans to provide expert testimony about homeschooling.
Then came word the counts no longer would be pursued.
Thornton reported the two oldest children, ages 16 and 18, already successfully completed their public school exams.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association also has been taking a hands-on approach to working on homeschooling cases in Germany.
Just a few days ago, the organization said it was helping a family with an unusual, first-of-its-kind application: political asylum in the United States from Germany’s oppressive homeschooling laws.
The Uwe and Hannelore Romeike family fled their native Bissingen, Germany, to escape persecution under a Nazi-era law requiring all children to attend public school to avoid “the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions” that could be taught by parents at home.
WND reported two years ago on the day police knocked on the Romeike’s door and forcibly escorted their children to public school.
The family fled Germany and this summer arrived in Tennessee, where they hope they will be permitted to make a permanent home.