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November 8, 2011

Authorities to Parents: Take Your Kids to School or Else We Will!

Local and state education officials have threatened to take the Dudek family’s children to school by brute force, according to a letter to parents Jürgen and Rosemarie Dudek obtained by HSLDA. The letter from Hesse Regional School Office Director Anita Hoffman says that among the remedies the state may use against the family is to “take custody of the children from the parents” or to “transport the children to school by force.”

German Filmmaker Features Dudek Family

Watch the trailer for an upcoming documentary about homeschooling in Germany.

New Documentary: Building Education by Trusting God

Preview available on YouTube.com >>

Mr. Dudek says it is against his religious and philosophical convictions to send his children to a government school. In the trailer of a documentary available at YouTube.com, Mrs. Dudek explains that she always felt that school was a kind of prison and she cannot in good conscience allow her children to be imprisoned in a state school. Watch the trailer >>

According to Mr. Dudek, over 40,000 people have already watched this trailer in Germany.

“It’s the first time in all these years that the head of the school authorities herself sent us a letter,” explains Jürgen Dudek. “I believe they’re in a fix, not knowing exactly how to go on with our case. So they can only resort to putting all kinds of pressure on us, this time even threatening the forced transportation of our children to school.”

In a 2009 retrial, jail sentences of 90 days for each parent were overturned, and the family is appealing the criminal fines that were substituted in their place. Even though their oldest son is now apprenticed as a carpenter and received a top score on a state educational exam, educational authorities are mounting pressure to force the family to give up homeschooling and send their children to school.

The family has homeschooled for 12 years and has battled in court for over half that time, seeking the right to homeschool their children peacefully. In Germany, unlike most Western countries, however, homeschooling is not permitted. Instead, parents are fined thousands of dollars, threatened with jail time or the loss of custody of their children. Ironically, the highest German courts have ruled that homeschooling may be considered an abuse of parental rights and can be banned in the interest of “stamping out parallel societies.”

HSLDA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly says that home education is a first-order human right protected under international law and that German’s constitutional courts missed the mark in their homeschooling case.

“The German Constitution and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights recognize that the right of parents to direct a child’s education is superior to that of the state. However, given the opportunity to protect this right in favor of home education, two of Germany’s highest constitutional courts got it wrong. This gave ‘cover’ to lower courts, politicians and bureaucrats to persecute home educators,” he said. “The Dudek case may provide an opportunity for the court to revisit its rulings in these cases.”

However, Donnelly notes that only a political solution can solve the underlying problem stemming from the 1938 law that made it a crime to not send children to state schools. The failure of state-level politicians in Germany is concerning, he says.

“Germany is a federal republic, and its states control education, which means the real solution will come only when state-level German politicians step up and address this fundamental human rights issue,” Donnelly said. “The number of homeschoolers is not large in Germany for obvious reason, but the failure of German politicians to act regarding this fundamental human rights concern speaks volumes about Germany’s commitment to pluralism and democracy.”

The German Constitutional Court has declined to hear recent homeschooling cases. However, the Dudeks’ case is different, as their attorney Andreas Vogt argues that Hesse law is too unconstitutionally vague to permit criminal sanctions for homeschooling. Many homeschoolers have left Germany rather than risk the persecution they face over educating their children at home. This may be one of the last opportunities homeschoolers have at the Constitutional Court level.

“I have the impression,” Mr. Dudek wrote to HSLDA, “that this is one of the last chances for German homeschoolers to appeal at the Constitutional Court in this matter, as the number of homeschoolers continues to dwindle due to the exodus of homeschooling families from Germany. And without any pressure from within, the state has no reason whatsoever to change its stance on homeschooling.”

The Dudeks credit the great support they have received from the international homeschooling community, especially from the United States, for their strength to carry on in spite of virtually overwhelming pressure to conform to German societal expectations. The Dudeks point hopefully to a 2010 case in United States federal immigration court that granted political asylum to the Romeikes, another German homeschooling family. However, that case was appealed by the Obama administration, and the family continues to await a ruling from the federal Board of Immigration Appeals after 18 months.

“It is the support of homeschoolers from all over that has helped us, and we would be very grateful if you would pray for a positive judgment, positive not only for us, but positive for all families who are heavily under attack because of forced schooling in Germany,” said Dudek.

 More Information

“German Prosecutor Seeks to Make Example of Homeschooling Family”