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France

January 28, 2014

Bill Would Restrict Homeschooling to “Exceptional Circumstances”

Families actively oppose bill through worldwide petition

Brittany Paist
HSLDA Legal Assistant

Update

Action no longer need! The proposed bill was withdrawn on March 11, 2014 by its sponsor. Thanks to all who signed the petition against SB 245.

A bill in the French Senate seeking to restrict homeschooling would significantly alter the landscape of homeschool freedom not only in France but all of Europe. Senate Bill 245 would effectively ban homeschooling by allowing only children with physical or mental disabilities to be educated at home.

French homeschool and family groups quickly coordinated a petition to oppose the bill, calling the proposed legislation an “attack against families.”

Michael Donnelly, director of international relations at HSLDA, said this bill is the most recent in a string of attempts across Europe to impose even more state control over children.

“The ‘exceptional circumstances’ language in Senate Bill 245 is disturbingly reminiscent of the education law enacted in Sweden in 2010 that effectively banned home education in that country,” Donnelly explained. “In proposing this bill, France is aligning with countries such as Sweden and Germany that ignore the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. The assumption behind this bill is that the state knows best and parents do not.”

Focus on Socialization

Senators from the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party introduced the bill on December 18, 2013 and rely heavily on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and arguments that homeschooled children are not socialized. The bill text argues that education “requires a collective dimension” and narrowly defines socialization as interaction with peers as justification for restricting homeschooling.

An article on Der Blaue Brief, a blog about freedom of education written by German homeschooling father Jürgen Dudek, calls the bill a “drastic curtailment of parents’ rights” and notes that the proposed law has “already provoked public resistance.”

The French petition against the bill makes it clear that the proposed law threatens decades of history in France where freedom of education has been protected.

“In France, homeschooling is legal and this choice of instruction belongs to the parents,” the petition reads. “It is a constitutional freedom which is registered in the European Convention on Human Rights … This proposed law aims to reduce individual freedoms … and is once again an attack against families in their life choices. We have to oppose it firmly to continue to be able to choose the best for our children.”

Another French website states, “We do not want our children to be forced to go to school. It is a choice.”

Attack on Parental Rights

As HSLDA has previously reported, in many countries such as Botswana, Britain, Bulgaria, Scotland, Sweden, and others, the UNCRC has been used by governments as rationale to diminish parental rights, especially in the realm of educational freedom.

“The idea that only public schools can adequately provide students with a ‘comprehensive and objective’ view on all subjects and issues is a twisted view of reality,” stated Donnelly. “Experience shows that government schools seek to impart their own state-approved worldview to children. It is pure totalitarianism to deny parents the freedom to homeschool their children simply because the government believes it can do ‘better’.”

Donnelly also notes that the public perception that homeschooled students are isolated and unsocialized is demonstrably false.

“In the U.S., studies show that homeschooled graduates excel in college and career environments,” said Donnelly, “They are well-developed, responsible citizens who are productive members of society. In large part, this is because homeschoolers have the opportunity to socialize with many different groups and ages, not just with their own peers in a traditional school setting.”

You Can Help

French homeschoolers have asked for help, noting that this attack on homeschooling freedom comes from an unexpected source.

“What is unusual,” said one homeschool leader, “is that this bill has been initiated by the right wing (UMP). The left wing has tried many times to pass such a bill in the past.”

Jürgen Dudek notes on Der Blaue Brief that politicians are often “inspired by … ideas abroad.” He writes, “The ‘idea’ of collective schooling by force is a genuinely German invention.”

The Wunderlich family are the latest victims of this mindset—the family’s four children are currently being forced to attend a government school. In a recent ruling, a German judge effectively made the family prisoners in Germany, denying their request to emigrate to France in hopes of homeschooling in freedom.

“Please sign the petition and remember French homeschoolers in your thoughts and prayers,” Donnelly requests. “The proposed bill has the potential to significantly impact French families—as well as the Wunderlich family and other German families seeking freedom—and would mark a significant departure from a strong history of freedom of education in France. Your help is needed to stand together and show French officials that families around the world oppose Senate Bill 245.”

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