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Pastor Charged with Criminal Child Abuse Over Home Education
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3. Prof. Sergei Ignatov, Minister of Education, Youth and Science
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Home education is a small but growing movement in the Eastern European country of Bulgaria, and as is common during its early stages of growth, the attention it is attracting from authorities is not positive.
In the town of Vidin, Pastor Yavor Kostov withdrew his son from the local public school because of bullying. He began to homeschool his 13-year-old son while researching options for distance learning in an international program. According to Peter Porumbachanov, president of the Bulgarian Homeschool Association, families that withdraw their children from the public system face persecution from government authorities.
Although Bulgarian law only allows the Social Services Child Protection Unit (CPD) to initiate administrative proceedings against parents, local officials in Vidin have charged Pastor Kostov with criminal child abuse. However, Article 182 of the Bulgarian Criminal Code clearly addresses only those parents who have neglected their children causing serious consequences for them. In this case, Pastor Kostov withdrew his son to protect him from serious consequences of violence from his classmates because school officials could not or would not deal with the situation.
Since Pastor Kostov withdrew his son from school in February, authorities have attempted to unlawfully enter his home—a violation of the family’s fundamental right to privacy of home and family life, per Art. 32 (1) and 33 (1) of the Bulgarian Constitution. Pastor Kostov was also summoned to the local police station on May 28 as a witness in the investigation but, in violation of the law, he was also required to bring his son to this meeting, for whom there was no subpoena issued. At the meeting, police interrogators treated the father as though he were a criminal and threatened him with a three-year prison sentence. Pastor Kostov’s attorney, Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney Viktor Kostov, has attempted to examine his client’s file to organize his defense, and the police department in Vidin refused to provide information on the case or the case file.
“This is a clear-cut case of arbitrary use of power,” explains attorney Kostov. “The authorities are trying to scare the family into bowing down to the CPD’s demand that the child go back to school … they have absolutely no grounds for accusing the father and mother of a crime.”
Michael Farris, founder and chairman of Home School Legal Defense Association, says that such abuses of power have serious consequences.
“As a former totalitarian and communist country now with democratic aspirations, Bulgaria’s treatment of its citizens in this manner over the choice to homeschool is alarming,” notes Farris. “These officials are violating Pastor Kostov’s fundamental human right to choose the kind of education his son should receive.”
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international affairs, has written to Vidin officials.
“HSLDA calls on Bulgaria to conform its law to reflect these human rights norms and on Vidin officials to cease persecuting this family,” states Donnelly. “We will continue to support Bulgarian families as we have for over a decade now to attain the freedom to homeschool their children without unreasonable governmental interference.”
Donnelly is encouraging others to get involved to help this family.
“I am asking our members and friends of homeschooling worldwide to write to these officials,” says Donnelly. “They should know that we will come to the aid of homeschoolers who are persecuted and will not let arbitrary abuse go unchallenged. Please use the contact information below to ask these officials to leave this family alone and respect their right to homeschool!”
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