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AROUND THE GLOBE
Deutschland: School instruction in the house
Legal attacks on German families continue as the homeschool movement steadily gains a foothold.
Mr. and Mrs. Bacher* have 10 children and live in the state of Bavaria. When they began to homeschool because of religious objections to the public school's curriculum, school officials prosecuted them all the way through the German court system. The family lost at each level, including the federal supreme court. Having exhausted the German court system, the Bachers, represented by the German homeschool legal defense association Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. (School Instruction at Home, or Schuzh), await a decision from Bavaria. Schuzh is lobbying legislators for this family to be permitted to homeschool.
|Mike Farris talks with a family who have already taken their plea to the German Supreme Court. Although the family lost at that level, they are still homeschooling.|
Also in Bavaria, school authorities asked Mr. and Mrs. Goldermann* to send their children to school instead of teaching them at home. The family worked out an agreement with the authorities allowing their children to take a national achievement test, which the children passed with flying colors. The authorities then responded that the children should be in school because they would set a good example for the other students. Mr. and Mrs. Goldermann politely refused and were heavily fined. When the state then attempted to put a lien on their home, Schuzh stepped in to prevent it. Next, the state froze the Goldermanns' bank account. Again Schuzh stepped in to see that the account was reactivated. Schuzh is now lobbying Bavarian lawmakers to permit the family to fulfill the mandatory school attendance law by using a correspondence course.
The Steins*, who live in the state of Hessen and have seven children, began homeschooling because they were appalled by the explicit sexual content in their children's school curriculum. The lowest court ruled in the family's favor, but the state appealed and won in the next higher court. Schuzh has appealed this case.
After Mr. and Mrs. Wein's* daughter experienced bullying and abuse at the public school, her parents withdrew her and began homeschooling. Since then, this family in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz has been harassed by authorities, turned in on false charges of child abuse, and now faces prosecution. If necessary, Schuzh will defend the Weins in court.
However, largely due to the generosity of American homeschoolers, the German homeschool movement is persevering. On December 2, 2003, Home SchoolLegal Defense Association alerted our members to the severe opposition that had caused some German homeschool families to go into hiding. We asked you to consider donating to Schuzhand you did. American homeschoolers responded by contributing thousands of dollars!
|At the Schuzh table, attendees could obtain German translations of Dr. Brian Ray's recent study, Homeschooling Grows Up. Information on Schuzh and a video documentary were also available.|
Schuzh Director Richard Guenther wrote a letter of thanks to United States homeschoolers for their generosity. "I would like to take this time to thank you and all who have supported Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. (Schuzh) in prayer and donated money to see our cause go forward. Without your prayers, kind and encouraging words, and generous gifts, Schuzh could not have accomplished so much in such a short period of time."
Guenther also described the organization's accomplishments in the last few months, which include:
|>>||Schuzh now has an office fully equipped with three complete workstations and staffed with a director, assistant director, and webmaster. Schuzh's legal department now has two attorneys.|
|>>||Schuzh's membership has tripled as families in Germany learn of the legal help available to them.|
|>>||Schuzh has established a 24-7 hotline, which operates even on holidays.|
|>>||Media coverage of German homeschoolers has been excellent. Schuzh has developed several positive contacts, including an Associated Press journalist who wrote an informative article that appeared in several major German newspapers.|
|>>||Schuzh supported the publication of three books in 2004 on the topic of homeschooling.|
|>>||Schuzh Attorney Gabriele Eckermann convinced a judge to dismiss criminal charges against a member family who had been fined for refusing to comply with the school attendance laws.|
|>>||Two German and two international correspondence schools are offering Schuzh members special prices on their programs and materials.|
|>>||This spring, Schuzh sponsored two homeschool conferencesone in Hessen during March and another in Nuremberg at the end of April. Each conference attracted over 200 attendees, and additional conferences are being planned for each state.|
These achievements have tremendously encouraged German homeschoolers. But the fight is far from over. They still need resources to coordinate their efforts, hold conferences, and litigate for their rights.
In his keynote speech, Mike Farris traced the past 25 years of the American homeschooling movement for his German audience, prefacing his remarks with the following caution: "I do not believe that everything that has happened in the United States is applicable to Europe in general, or to Germany specifically . . . It is for Europeans to discern what parts of the American story are instructive."
Beginning with his family's own discovery of homeschooling, Mike described the early battles for recognition of the right to homeschool in the United States. He outlined the general patterns of state laws under which homeschooling operates. And he discussed the success homeschool students have demonstratedacademically, socially, and civically.
He closed by encouraging his audience to continue their fight for freedom. "I believe that every nation that tries homeschooling freedom would probably find it to be a success. But there is only one way to find out in each countrygive freedom a chance and see if it works."
Standing together for freedomSchuzh representatives, Jay Sekulow of the European Centre for Law and Justice (far left), and HSLDA Senior Counsel Chris Klicka and his wife, Tracy, (front center) meet to discuss the legal challenges homeschoolers are facing in Germany.
We ask Home School Legal Defense Association members to pray for German families who are suffering for their decision to homeschool. Additionally, we ask our members to consider providing financial support for the cause of freedom in Germany. You can send donations to the Home School Foundation, earmarked for German homeschoolers.
For updates on the situation in Germany, please visit our website at http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Germany.
* Names changed to protect families' privacy.
On April 24, 2004, Home School Legal Defense Association Board Chairman Michael Farris spoke at the second Schuzh Convention and Homeschool Exposition in Germany. The convention drew approximately 250 adult attendees out of the estimated 400 families who homeschool in that country. Topics such as "Homeschooling: Law and Reality in Light of the European Charter of Human Rights" and "Correspondence Schools Bring Education Home: A Practical Solution for Homeschooling Families" were presented by a lineup of homeschooling experts, including Schuzh President Armin Eckermann, Dr. Ronald Reichert, and student and parent panels. Attendees browsed book tables and went to an evening press conference.
Beyond curricula and advice, however, the convention offered these pioneer families a valuable opportunity to network with other homeschoolers.