Judge leaves teen in parents’ custody

By Bob Unruh

A judge in Germany has left a teen in the custody of his parents – for now – in what homeschooling advocates are describing as a big win in their ongoing war with authorities over the legitimacy of home education practices.

The decision this week came in the case of Aaron Schmidt, the son of Hans and Petra Schmidt, who live in Southern Bavaria, according to a report from Joel Thornton of the International Human Rights Group.

Thornton has been working on the case and was in Germany for the hearing, even though he was banned from the courtroom because of objections from the local German Youth Welfare Office.

The Schmidts have taught their children, Josua and Aaron, at home for nine years. Josua, 16, recently finished tests documenting his completion of all the requirements of the school system. But the fight remains over future schooling for Aaron, 14, who has been tested as performing at high academic levels.

Thornton reported the judge’s final decision “was that the local school should give Aaron a test to see if he is academically okay. Pending the results of that test all the attorneys agree that the court will leave custody with the parents – instead of transferring custody to the state.”

“This is a big partial victory,” Thornton told WND. “This is not the first time it has happened, but it is rare, that the court has not ruled that homeschooling is against the law and therefore nothing further needed to be done other than putting the child in school.

“This is one of the first times that a German court has intimated that they would not stop the homeschooling as long as the child was being educated properly,” he explained. “This is a huge victory in the making. If we can get this court to continue and more courts to agree that homeschooling is not, in itself, harmful, then we can begin to make a dent in the legal system that is currently punishing parents for exercising their legal right to control the education of their children.”

He told WND earlier that the issue is not really about homeschooling but about “the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children.”

“If the state has the right to control education regarding reading and math curriculum without question, they will soon exercise the right to control the religious education as well,” he said.

Thornton said he had asked permission to attend the court hearing in Noerdlingen, Germany, as an interested person and a friend of the family.

“The judge was happy to have me in the courtroom as long as I did not broadcast her name on the Internet. The Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office), however, was a different matter.

“The Jugendamt asked if I was associated with homeschooling. When Gabriele (Eckermann, the parents’ attorney) answered honestly that I was – I was one of the attorneys who filed the notorious Konrad case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France back in 2003 – the Jugendamt protested my being allowed in the courtroom for the hearing and so I was banned,” Thornton explained.

“The first thing the judge did was asked to meet privately with Aaron and his attorney [Johannes Hildebrandt],” he said. “In itself this is a big victory. In one case it took hours of arguments from the lawyers to have the attorney be permitted to be with the child.

“After examining Aaron for herself the judge continued the hearing. The Jugendamt asked to have Aaron psychologically tested, they naturally assume that there is something wrong with him because he is homeschooled. Johannes objected to the test stating that there was no evidence that there was anything wrong with Aaron and the court agreed,” he said.

IHRG earlier reported the Schmidts already have been fined about $18,300 for homeschooling, and since they are unable to pay all of the fines, they have been subjected to a government lien on their home.

WND reported in 2006 when the European Court of Human Rights affirmed Germany’s nationwide ban on homeschooling, a leftover from its Nazi era that essentially said parents’ desires for their children’s education didn’t matter.

Since that ruling, WND has reported on numerous cases handled by the IHRG or the Home School Legal Defense Association in which penalties and fines, even the threat of jail time, have been imposed against parents who object to permissive sexual teachings and objectionable material in public schools, prompting them to homeschool their children instead.

Several hundred families are believed to be homeschooling Germany. Virtually all are in some type of court proceeding or living underground.

One family even fled to the U.S. and has a request for asylum pending because of the persecution they believe they would face if they returned.

The Strasbourg, France-based court in its 2006 decision said the parental “wish” to have their children grow up without liberal sexual influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.” The decision also said the parents do not have an “exclusive” right to lead their children’s education.

A website for the Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Adolf Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools and school-related issues.

In 1937, the dictator 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.”