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The Ministry of Education in the Netherlands recently threatened homeschooling, but a quick response by Dutch and international homeschoolers accomplished an important victory.
In the Netherlands, home education is not a legal option. Parents can seek an exemption from school registration, but only for deeply felt religious or philosophical reasons. Since any education outside of the public school system is considered ineffective, officials recognize exemptions only with great reluctance. Many exemptions are denied, and once a child has attended a public school, even this option is barred. As a result, only about 100 children are being homeschooled in the Netherlands today.
On October 30, 2003, Dutch Minister of Education Maria van der Hoeven proposed a plan to the Education Committee of the Dutch House of Representatives that would have regulated homeschooling even further.
Dutch homeschoolers immediately contacted Christopher Klicka, Home School Legal Defense Association's Director of International Relations. HSLDA responded with advice and assistance. Klicka sent Dutch homeschoolers a package of materials to aid their lobbying efforts, and an HSLDA e-lert urged member families to call the Dutch embassy in Washington, D.C., and to write the Dutch Education Committee.
United States homeschoolers sent thousands of emails to the various ministers of parliament, describing the outstanding results of home education.
While the Education Committee did grant van der Hoeven the authority to develop legislation for the inspection of homeschooling, we believe that homeschoolers accomplished a major victory for the following reasons: first, we delayed any immediate efforts to regulate homeschooling; second, the Education Committee has been informed about homeschoolers' concerns (most members of parliament had not considered homeschooling an important issue because it affects a tiny minority of the Dutch population); third, Dutch homeschoolers were able to build relationships with ministers sympathetic to homeschooling—which will be vital in future battles for homeschool freedom.
As Dutch homeschool groups continue to lobby for eased restrictions on home education, we encourage homeschoolers around the world to maintain the global perspective that helped them win this victory in the Netherlands. Homeschoolers can only remain free if they support and defend one another!
Canadian court affirms parental rights
On January 30, 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to criminalize spanking as a form of parental discipline.
At issue was section 43 of Canada's Criminal Code, which states that parents may use reasonable force when correcting a child. In 1999, a child rights group challenged section 43 in court. In response, Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada formed the Coalition for Family Autonomy with three other pro-family groups to intervene in the case. Two Canadian courts upheld section 43 before the case was appealed to the Supreme Court in 2003.
"The decision is grounded in the recognition that to criminalize the actions of parents who provide loving guidance and correction to their children would result in ruined lives and broken families," said HSLDA of Canada Senior Counsel and Executive Director Dallas Miller.
Implications for visitors
Families visiting Canada should be aware that the Canadian Supreme Court's 6-3 decision restricted corporal punishment in four ways: parents may not spank children younger than 2 years of age, may not use an object to spank, may not spank teenagers, and may not slap or strike blows to the head. While in Canada, U.S. citizens are under Canadian jurisdiction and risk being investigated for child abuse if they do not comply with the Supreme Court's restrictions.