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June 8, 2010

Swedes Need Help in Final Push to Avoid Extreme Homeschool Law

Swedish homeschoolers are making progress in arguing their case to parliament but need help from the international homeschool community. The Swedish parliament is gearing up for a vote on a highly controversial school law proposal that could come to a tight four-vote margin in a 349-seat parliament. The proposed law would essentially ban home education. In advance of the law, homeschoolers in Sweden are seeing increased pressure from school authorities who are taking them to court and fining them thousands of dollars. Unless things change, Sweden is heading down the same path as the Federal Republic of Germany in the area of respecting family autonomy and freedom in education. Swedish homeschoolers are desperate and have asked HSLDA to help generate international pressure against the imposition of these draconian measures.

Surprisingly, the political parties that originally proposed the dramatic change for homeschoolers in Sweden almost six years ago, now in the opposition, may vote against the proposed law for reasons other than homeschooling. The current center-right coalition government in Sweden includes moderates and the Christian Democrat Party. These parties took power four years ago and inherited a proposed school law written by a government controlled by Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Leftist Party. The changes in the proposed school law cover a variety of issues including earlier childhood education, increasing fines for truancy, making it harder for parents to get excuses to remove their children from school for travel, as well as the imposition of extreme measures against homeschoolers.

The largest opposition party in Sweden—the Social Democrats—have threatened to vote against the whole school law that they originally authored because of changes made by the coalition government. As a result, the several hundred homeschool families in Sweden are caught in the middle. Some specifics the opposition dislikes in the new school law include increased control by the minister of education, the giving of performance grades at earlier ages, punishing bullies by simply moving them to another school, the proposals to introduce more “school” and less play in daycare, and imposing more fines. The Social Democrats want to be “more human and not so hard” on children.

The president of The Swedish Association of Home Education, ROHUS, thinks that international pressure could help.

“This vote looks extremely close,” said Jonas Himmelstrand. “There are some members of especially the Christian Democrat Party who we think may be willing to consider another way of looking at homeschooling. We have made progress in helping other parties see that homeschooling should be tolerated, but it may be the case of too little, too late. The politicians may just overwhelm us.”

In Sweden’s increasingly secular society, ideas regarding religious freedom tend to sway only members of the conservative Christian Democrat Party. Members of the other parties will not respond positively to arguments including religious freedom or the desire to educate children in their faith—rather the contrary.

Himmelstrand continued, “We have identified a targeted group of parliamentarians. While appeals to Christian ideas may impact Christian Democrats, such ideas should not be used in messages to any other parties. Indeed, homeschooling is a human right that ought to be respected regardless of what religion or reasons a person has.”

HSLDA’s Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly also believes international pressure can be helpful and urges HSLDA members to take action.

An email to the following Swedish members of parliament with a message based on human rights and freedom may be effective in changing the minds of legislators. It is important that homeschoolers stand together to defend the right of parents to determine what is the best form of education for their children. In countries where the numbers of homeschoolers are small, international pressure may make the difference between success or failure. Please take action as indicated below.

Please consider writing an email based on the following information. The vote on the law is expected on June 21 or 22:

Dear Member of Parliament:

I understand that nations have their own culture and laws, and that Sweden is a country based on Western notions of justice and liberty. Therefore, I urge you to vote against the proposed school law that would modify chapter 24, paragraph 23 in the proposed new Swedish school law and would essentially ban homeschooling in Sweden. In a pluralistic and democratic society such as Sweden’s, freedom in education must be respected because it is a recognized human right of parents to determine the best form of education for their children. This right is recognized in numerous international instruments including the European Convention and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. In fact, the United Nations has explicitly stated that homeschooling should be permitted. Thank you for considering this request.

Consider including one or more of the following additional arguments:

1) The proposed legislation regarding homeschooling ignores the explicit interpretation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights by Special Rapporteur Vernor Munoz.

2) There is solid evidence-based research showing that homeschooling is both an academically and socially successful educational alternative to school.

3) Swedish homeschoolers are, like homeschoolers in other countries, deeply convinced of the effectiveness of home education through the positive experience with their children in academic and social development. This experience also has a basis in fact and is confirmed by evidence-based research. This deserves the respect of any democratically minded political decision maker.

4) If the proposed law is passed, some of the most ambitious and well-functioning Swedish families—homeschooling families—will be fined, maybe threatened by social authorities, and forced to go into political exile to neighboring countries.

5) The proposed law may very well lead to Swedish homeschooling families seeking political asylum in the United States, following the recent example of a German family.

6) The new law also promotes preschool from the age of 1, as a key component in the lifelong learning process, disregarding evidence that early child care is not beneficial to all children.

Please consider sending the email to some or all of the following members of the Swedish parliament. Remember that while religious-based arguments will be appreciated by the Christian Democrats, they will not be effective with any other party.

Christian Democrats

Gunilla Tjernberg gunilla.tjernberg@kristdemokraterna.se
Lennart Sacredeus lennart.sacredeus@kristdemokraterna.se
Inger Davidson inger.davidson@kristdemokraterna.se
Annelie Enochson annelie.enochson@kristdemokraterna.se
Mikael Oscarsson mikael.oscarsson@kristdemokraterna.se
Eva Johnsson eva.johnsson@kristdemokraterna.se
Emma Henriksson emma.henriksson@kristdemokraterna.se
Otto von Arnold otto.von.arnold@kristdemokraterna.se
Yvonne Andersson yvonne.andersson@kristdemokraterna.se
Stefan Attefall stefan.attefall@kristdemokraterna.se
Kjell Eldensjö kjell.eldensjo@kristdemokraterna.se
Holger Gustafsson holger.gustafsson@kristdemokraterna.se
Lars Gustafsson lars.gustafsson@kristdemokraterna.se
Dan Kihlström dan.kihlstrom@kristdemokraterna.se
Else-Marie Lindgren else-marie.lindgren@kristdemokraterna.se
Irene Oskarsson irene.oskarsson@kristdemokraterna.se
Rosita Runegrund rosita.runegrund@kristdemokraterna.se
Ingvar Svensson ingvar.svensson@kristdemokraterna.se
Ingemar Vänerlöv ingemar.vanerlov@kristdemokraterna.se
Anders Andersson anders.andersson@kristdemokraterna.se
Michael Anefur michael.anefur@kristdemokraterna.se
Lars-Axel Nordell lars-axel.nordell@kristdemokraterna.se
Liza-Maria Norlin liza-maria.norlin@kristdemokraterna.se
Désirée Pethrus Engström desiree.pethrus.engstrom@kristdemokraterna.se

The Center Party

Ulrika Carlsson ulrika.carlsson@riksdagen.se
Per Lodenius per.lodenius@riksdagen.se

Moderates

Mats Gerdau mats.gerdau@riksdagen.se
Anne-Marie Pålsson anne-marie.palsson@riksdagen.se
Lars-Arne Staxäng lars-arne.staxang@riksdagen.se

Thank you for standing with us to help Swedish homeschoolers!