HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL
Germany
Germany

December 2, 2003

German Homeschoolers Under Attack

Homeschoolers in Germany are facing a crisis and need our prayers and financial support. Two recent court decisions have ruled against homeschool families and as a result many families are in hiding. The situation has become desperate.

The United States has been blessed for many years with the freedom to homeschool. Other countries do not have such freedoms. If we do not help "the least of these" in other nations, who will help them? Please take a moment and read the paragraphs below and see if you can donate to the homeschoolers' cause in Germany.

Two years ago HSLDA helped the German homeschoolers start their own legal defense group, Schulunterricht zu Hause. However, it needs support to fund cases, hire full-time help, and promote homeschooling in Germany. All donations sent to HSLDA's Home School Foundation, earmarked for Germany, will be sent directly to Schulunterricht zu Hause for the defense of homeschoolers.

German Homeschoolers Held in Double Jeopardy

In April of 2003, Schulunterricht zu Hause attorney Gabriele Eckermann successfully represented the Bauer family, who had been charged with disregarding the mandatory school attendance laws in the Criminal Court of the Amtsgericht Alsfeld, Hessen. This victory was the first formal recognition of the validity of homeschooling in Germany.

In the United States, people who are acquitted of a crime are no longer in jeopardy of being charged for that same crime, its called double jeopardy. Unfortunately, this is not the law in Germany and the state can appeal the decision of a lower court. Even though the Bauer family won their case, the state appealed.

The second trial, in the higher court, did not go so well. The judge ruled that the mandatory school law must be recognized and that there is no exception for reasons of conscience or religion!

Below are excerpts from an article written after the decision in the Giessener Allgemeine, Nov. 6, 2003.

"In a case concerning the mandatory school attendance of their children, Bible believing parents from Gemuenden/Felda were reprimanded by the court. The State Court in Giessen sentenced the parents of eight children to pay a fine of 400 euro. 'If during the next two years the parents again violate the mandatory school attendance law, they will need to pay an additional 800 euro,' said the presiding Judge. With that, the court overturned a surprising acquittal by the Administrative Court in Alsfield.

"'Public school is unavoidable,' declared the judge. 'It is up to the administrative authorities to enforce the school attendance in the future,' said Attorney General Volker Uhl. The court sided with the prosecution in their ruling. The parents, Sigrid and Michael Bauer from Vogelsberg, complained that public schools undermine their Christian educational values, such as modesty and obedience to parents. Because of this, they have been teaching their five school age children at home for more than two years. All eight children of the couple -- ranging from 10 months to 16 years old -- were present at the hearing. What especially disturbs the parents is the "exclusive" transmission of the theory of evolution and the alleged "constant confrontation" with the topic of sexuality.

The defense, which brought the case to a standstill by filing a flood of petitions, asked for another acquittal. "By sending their children to school, they disobey God's word," declared Attorney Gabriele Eckermann of Schulunterricht zu Hause "Their relationship with God is thereby disturbed." Sexual education in particular leads to an "early sexualisation" of students. Schulunterricht zu Hause is appealing the case to Upper State Court in Frankfurt.

Konrad Case Appealed to European Court of Human Rights

Another Schulunterricht zu Hause member homeschool family, the Konrads, lost their final appeal before Germany's highest federal court.

HSLDA is financially and strategically assisting their attorney, constitutional lawyer Ronald Reichert, appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Plea for Help from German Homeschoolers

Richard and Ingrid Guenther, German homeschool leaders and members of the board of Schulunterricht zu Hause, indicate the situation is desperate.

"We have several families that we know of who are in hiding. Surely there are many more by now. It is becoming clear how the Jews must have felt under Hitler. Two families have been separated for more than a year now. The fathers live in one state of Germany where they have their home and the mothers and children hide out in another state with family and friends. They see each other only on weekends. They hope to be reunited one day in their homes when homeschooling is legalized. As for now, both parents have lost custody of their children during school hours. That means that they are subject to a guardian ordered by the government who has the duty to bring them to school -- even by police.

"Let me give you an example of another family. The mother and children had to relocate to Austria and the father remained in Germany where he had his own business. He was forced to give up his business and move to his family in Austria where they live now on a bare minimum income. Even after their children were registered in a regular Austrian school, the German court continued to harass them. They lost partial custody of their children (during school hours) even though they had left Germany -- which will take effect upon entering Germany again."

Now the Guenthers themselves have been contacted by a social worker and are being questioned by the school authorities regarding their homeschool!

Many homeschoolers in the United States have forgotten the terror of being taken to jail for exercising their God-given responsibility to homeschool. We have been able to legalize homeschooling in all fifty states. We have demonstrated over time that homeschoolers, on the average, perform above average in standardized tests, college entrance examinations, and are successful in college, the military and the workforce. But our freedom to homeschool was not free. Many families had to sacrifice in order to legalize homeschooling in the 1980s and 90s.

German homeschoolers are facing this battle right now. It is vital that we in America, who have been given so much, rally around these families and lift up the homeschooling movement in Germany.

We are asking Home School Legal Defense Association members to pray for the Bauers, the Konrads, Guenthers, and other unnamed families who are suffering for their decision to homeschool. Additionally, we are asking for families to consider donating financial support for the cause of freedom in Germany. You can send donations to the Home School Foundation, earmarked for German homeschoolers. Please go to https://secure.hslda.org/HSF/support.asp?GFD=German%20Homeschooling. We will send the donations on to Schulunterricht zu Hause to help with advising homeschoolers, negotiating with school districts, funding cases and appeals, paying fines, and defending the rights of homeschoolers in whatever way necessary.

For more information on the home schooling situation in Germany and history, visit our web site at:

http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Germany/default.asp