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November 25, 2009

Judge Fines Homeschoolers, No Jail Sentence

Jurgen and Rosemarie Dudek of Archfeld, Germany, were found guilty under the German State of Hessen’s criminal law that requires that all children go to school. Even as Judge Drier recognized that the family was doing a fine job in educating their children, he still imposed a fine of 120 euros on them.

“We recognize in our German basic law about philosophical and religious conviction and that parents have rights, but the basic law also includes that it is the state’s role to educate all children,” said Drier.

In 2008 the couple had been sentenced to 90 days in jail each. Their trial was completed today after being continued from last week.

As the family left the courtroom they were swarmed by German reporters and media, who have been following this case very closely. Mr. Dudek told the reporters that they had a duty to keep covering this issue for the sake of the country and for what is right.

“It is time for Germany to look beyond the rim of their bowl—to look beyond its borders to see how other countries handle this issue of homeschooling,” said Mr. Dudek.

He chastised the media for not having done more to bring attention to this issue, and that the result has been a heavy burden for his family.

“This whole situation with us as a family wouldn’t have come so far, with all this burden and pressure and sentences, if you had taken up this issue before and looked at this before,” Mr. Dudek said. “Now it is up to you to keep up the interest and reporting on this issue. Germany’s treatment of parents like us is wrong, and it is up to you to help people see this.”

Mr. Dudek felt that their family had received a fair trial, but surmised the judge did not feel like he could do any less than find them guilty and impose a fine.

“God has heard our prayers and our requests for justice,” he said. “The difference between this trial and the last is night and day. We feel that we had a fair trial, and that the judge was very careful to be fair. We disagree with the result, and we are thinking about appealing.”

The pressure on the family has been high, Mr Dudek said, but he is grateful for the international support he has received.

“There has been some much pressure on our family through this with all of the attention and the threat of jail,” he explained. “We know that what we are doing is right, and it is frustrating to have this same result that all homeschoolers in Germany get. The support of HSLDA and homeschoolers in America and other countries has really helped to carry us through.”

Michael Donnelly, staff attorney for HSLDA, who has been working in support of German homeschoolers and in close contact with the family, was relieved that they were not sent to jail. However, the family is still subject to future prosecution and potentially higher fines if they continue to homeschool.

“No family should go to jail or be fined for homeschooling,” Donnelly said. “German public policy makers need to make changes to their laws to stop this kind of persecution of homeschoolers.”

Donnelly was encouraged by the media’s response to the case.

“The ray of sunshine here is the response by the German media. Never before has a homeschooling case captured this much positive attention in the German media. To me, this means that things are changing. As the media reports on this there is a chance of public opinion and laws. But it will take time.”

Donnelly asked that homeschoolers continue their support of these brave families.

“We need to keep supporting these families who are fighting for a basic right that many of us take for granted. Juergen Dudek is a hero to me. His simple faith and trust in God’s providence and his courage to stand for what he knows is right inspires me. But like all of us, he needs encouragement. I hope we will all continue to keep him and his family in our prayers and continue to send notes of encouragement and support.”

You can send letters of support and encouragement to the family at:

Family Dudek
Friederichestr No. 6
37293 Archfeld, Germany

For more information about the plight of German homeschoolers visit HSLDA’s Germany homepage.