I N T E R N A T I O N A L N E W S
German Families in Court
In America, our liberties are protected by the Constitution. In other countries, however, freedom is not so highly prized. On a recent Home School Heartbeat radio broadcast, Michael Farris, president of Home School Legal Defense Association, told the story of two German families who are in court for home schooling:
Germany, unlike America, has a long tradition of emphasizing duty and obedience over freedom. When two German families felt called by God to teach their children at home, trouble was inevitable.
Late breaking news!!! HSLDA just received a fax from the Jens family in northern Germany. In the Jens court hearing, the judge decided to refer the matter to another court, but to let them keep home schooling for now. Praise God!
Hubert Kazmierczak, in Bavaria, is a pastor and feels called by God to his local congregation. Unfortunately, there is no Christian school nearby that is consistent with his church doctrine. He feels it would be a sin to put his second-grade daughter, Judith, into the public schools. German schools are very secular and teach many things offensive to any Christian parent. When Pastor Kazmierczak asked the city officials for permission to teach his daughter at home, they refused. He and his wife must now either pay a fine of 2,000 Deutschmarks each, and remain subject to further prosecution, or put Judith back in school. In a similar situation, the Jens family in northern Germany face a truancy hearing in March.
Germany has no specific provisions allowing home schooling, but the country has signed a convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms that requires them to respect religious liberties. Both families cite this human rights document as their legal basis for home schooling in Germany.
Unfortunately, these families must carry their legal case all the way to the German Supreme Court before they can appeal to the human rights court in Strassburg. HSLDA is in contact with human rights attorneys in Europe who are working to assist these families.
Australian Parents vs. Parliament
For many years used by families living in the outback, home education is now becoming the choice of parents across the five states and three territories of Australia. During recent months, home educators in the State of Western Australia have united in a fierce battle against new highly regulatory legislation. According to official counts, there are about 1000 registered home schoolers in the state, and it is estimated that there are just as many underground families. Those numbers are growing quickly, as many families become disillusioned with public school systemsacademically and socially.
Australias current Education Act (1928) simply requires parents to notify the State Minister of Education within 14 days of having commenced home tuition that the parent will provide regular and efficient instruction. In response, the Minister may require a report and issue an exemption from school attendance.
Over the last four years, the Western Australia State Education Department has introduced a policy which bends the law to suit particular administratorsrequiring annual approval, annual inspections, statements of aims and purpose, progress reports, etc. Many home educators recognized that this policy exceeded Education Act requirements and refused to comply with it. Even if a familys exemption was canceled, they were able to continue to home educate anywayrealizing that they couldnt be prosecuted under the law, because they hadnt broken the law. Unfortunately, less informed and less confident families were easily intimidated into returning their children to public school.
In 1994, the government decided to revise the 1928 Education Act, but the home education provisions of the School Education Bill finally proposed in 1997 were, in the words of Aussie home schoolers, horrendous. The language included approval of parent, the word school attached to everything, approval subject to plans, programmes, facilities, records, and many other requirements. Home inspections could take place without notice, carrying a $1000 fine for obstructing inspections. Home educators were required to adhere to the Curriculum Frameworkthe new compulsory curriculumand to apply for exemptions for any sections they felt were not relevant for their child.
A revised version of the bill significantly improved upon the first, but still is much more restrictive than the current Act. Under the second proposal, parents must register, set up their mandatory annual visits or reports within 21 days, and be subject to a three-month trial period. Permission to home school now depends on the childs educational progress, not on the parents provision of educationintroducing the possibility of mandatory testing.
Finding unity as they fight against a common enemy, home schoolers from a wide cross-section of backgrounds continue to oppose state attempts to usurp parental authority and responsibility. They have talked to the bills authors, lobbied their Members of Parliament, held public meetings, hosted seminars, produced a booklet outlining the issues, and sought advice from around the world.
We have sought advice, information and support from near and far, from the Eastern States of Australia to the Home School Legal Defense Association and the National Home Education Research Institute, said home school leader Melinda Ann Waddy. Many letters, e-mails, faxes, boxloads of information on research, legal case histories, information on international law have traveled the world to get to our doorstep to assist us greatly in our fight to stop this legislation being enacted.
The education sectors had little input into this bill; therefore it will likely be referred to a Parliamentary Committee for further consideration. A well known solicitor (lawyer) has stated that the bill is unconstitutional. To prepare for the event that Western Australian home educators are unable to defeat this legislation, they are exploring the possibility of taking the case to the Supreme Court. They are also talking with HSLDA about the best way to set up their own Legal Defense Fund.
It is indeed an exciting time, as people gather strength and stand strong in their convictions for their families, said Mrs. Waddy. We are indebted . . . to the many, many people around the globe and here at home for the invaluable assistance that you have given us. Thank you from our hearts and God bless you all.
This article is based on information provided by Melinda Ann Waddy.
Note from the National Center
While American home schoolers already know the meaning of hard won freedoms, courageous families in other countries who are just beginning the battle need our encouragement and our prayers.We need to often remind themand one anotherof Gods faithfulness and blessing to those who remain true to Him. Such stories of unwavering conviction inspire gratitude to God, renew our own resolve in battles to maintain our gained ground in the U.S., and drive us to our knees on behalf of our fellow freedom fighters.
If you would like to help home schoolers in Western Australia, contact the Australian Embassy and urge the government to work toward resolving this conflict. Tell them what home schooling has meant to you and your family. U.S. home schoolers played a significant role in the legalization of home education in South Africa. Write to: Ambassador Andrew Peacock, Embassy of Australia, 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036.