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Parental choice: homeschooling or jail?
In January, local school officials threatened to prosecute seven families for homeschooling in Paderborn County, Germany. Home School Legal Defense Association immediately sent out two e-lerts, which prompted thousands of phone calls and emails to the German Embassy on behalf of the Paul, Plett, W. Block, A. Block, Geislisng, Sterubel, Zin, and Trivonich families.
Simultaneously, Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. (School Instruction at Home) attorneys Rich and Ingrid Guenther, who are also homeschooling parents, mediated with the authorities on behalf of the seven families. (School Instruction at Home provides legal defense for homeschoolers in Germany.) The combined force of the Guenthers' influence and the flood of embassy contacts persuaded some officials to call for the legalization of homeschooling and delayed prosecution for nearly three months.
Nevertheless, the families expected some sort of punishment and on April 11, 2005, it came. The Paderborn school district began fining the families $650 per child. No due process. No court hearing. The parents must pay or face possible imprisonment. The fines will automatically be doubled in a week if they do not put their children in government school.
|Germany's homeschool community is growing: Over 200 people attended School Instruction at Home's 3rd annual conference in Luedenscheid, Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Further illustrating this anti-parental- choice mindset, one major newspaper recently quoted a local school authority as saying that the families should leave Germany if they want to continue homeschooling!
In fact, in an attempt to deflect the ongoing deluge of calls and emails, the German Embassy is stating that homeschooling should not be legal because "the public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different worldviews and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole."
"This statement is unacceptable to any free society!" insists HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher J. Klicka. "Despite the opposition from the embassy, German homeschoolers have told us on numerous occasions that your calls are effective."
"The embassy is communicating your views back to Germany," he adds. "And we have distributed the request for calls to homeschoolers all over the world. Homeschoolers in over 20 nations are calling and emailing their German embassies."
The Paderborn Seven are not the only homeschoolers facing intense opposition. The Guenthers themselves have been charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a truant" and fined over $1,500 simply because they have gone to Paderborn on a number of occasions to mediate with the authorities on behalf of the seven families.
"It is unconscionable that the authorities would prosecute individuals who are just trying to mediate and resolve conflicts," Klicka says.
The Loefflers, a homeschooling family near Nuremburg, have been fined approximately $14,000, which they cannot pay. They just received a letter stating that the government plans to freeze their bank account and come into their home to take anything of value up to the amount of the fine assessed against them. If the state of Bavaria follows standard procedure, Mr. Loeffler will be put in jail, and the process of removing the family's 8-year-old daughter will begin.
Another family in Bavaria, the Grosseluemerns, recently had to go to court for refusing to pay fines for not sending their child to school. The Grosseluemerns' attorney ably proved that the prosecution attorney was misapplying Bavarian law to the facts of the case, and that he was not upholding the federal law guaranteeing freedom of religion and parental rights. Nonetheless, the judge readily consented to the prosecuting attorney's request that the fine against the family be tripled. Two days later, a news story carried a quote from Bavarian officials saying that if it becomes necessary, they will put Mr. Grosseluemerns in prison until he pays the fine.
Although the German homeschool community is small, it is growing. Just this winter, School Instruction at Home's largest conference to date attracted over 200 attendees. A television station and two newspapers covered the event. As interest in homeschooling increases, several newspapersincluding TAZ, one of the largest papersare becoming sympathetic to the homeschooling cause.
How you can help
>> Call or email Germany's ambassador to the United States to express your support for homeschooling in general and for the specific families mentioned in this article:
4645 Reservoir Road NW
Washington, DC 20007-1998
The German Embassy can also be emailed through its website at http://www.globescope.biz/germany/reg/index.cfm.
>> Consider supporting School Instruction at Home. With 180 homeschooling members, the SIH staff works around the clock to represent these families in court and mediate with school districts. German homeschoolers are so grateful that you are helping them continue the legal fight.
To make a tax-deductible gift, go to www.homeschoolfoundation.org or mail your contribution to:
Home School Foundation
P.O. Box 3000
Purcellville, VA 20134
|- J. Michael Smith|